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Rhode Island students travel to DC for March for Our Lives

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Layla Alves used red and blue markers to color in a handwritten sign on poster board: “You fear we’ll take your guns; we fear you’ll take our friend.”

She’ll bring the sign on a bus Friday night, traveling along with 34 other students from the Met High School in Providence to Washington, D.C. overnight. The group will participate in the March for Our Lives Saturday, a student-led demonstration for gun control laws, organized in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month.

“I couldn’t imagine losing my friend, never mind 17 of them,” Alves told Eyewitness News. “It could’ve been us.”

The students, clad in matching orange T-shirts, prepared signs on Friday afternoon with powerful messages like: “Am I next?”

“You never know where it can happen,” said Marilyn Resto, the student who made the sign.

Many of the students are not yet old enough to vote, making do for now with their voices. Malitey Mullings, who is 17, said this was a chance to fight for legislation that seems like common sense to her.

“At 18 we’re not even allowed to drink,” Mullings said. “So if we’re not allowed to drink, why should we be able to fire a gun?”

She questioned why responsible gun owners would not be on board with the changes.

“I think a lot of people who have a problem with this movement…think that we’re trying to take away something from them,” Mullings said. “When really, it’s just about making sure people who shouldn’t have them, not have them.”

Another group of about 100 students from the Providence Student Union are also traveling overnight to Washington to join the march, which was organized by Stoneman Douglas students just days after they survived the mass shooting.

Some the victims’ families, along with surviving shooting victims, traveled on the New England Patriots plane to get to Washington for the march. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft donated the plane, sending it to Fort Lauderdale to pick up the passengers. The plane will return on Sunday.

With thousands of young people converging on the capital city, Alves said she hopes this shooting will be the one that finally leads to change.

“We all hope that it will be different this time,” Alves said. “And I think it will be. The fact that it’s more youth standing up now and making a difference. Because we are the next generation.”

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Protesters urge federal government not to allow drilling off Rhode Island’s coast

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PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) – Demonstrators supportive of the environment and clean waters swarmed a meeting of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Wednesday, asking the federal employees there not to allow companies to drill for oil and gas off of Rhode Island’s coastline.

The BOEM was in Providence to take public comment on a proposal by President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to open up 90% of offshore waters to oil and gas drilling. The drilling was banned in most of the nation’s waters under the Obama administration.

“Not on our watch,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a news conference before the meeting. “We’re going to stand up and make sure it doesn’t happen.”

“Opening up nearly all U.S. coasts to offshore drilling is an enormous leap back to the time when our energy policies turned a blind eye to pollution,” said Rep. Lauren Carson, a Democrat who represents Newport.

Protesters chanting “no drill, no spill” marched from the State House to the Marriott hotel, where the BOEM meeting was happening Wednesday afternoon. Demonstrators said they were concerned about oil rigs polluting Rhode Island waters, disrupting the fishing industry and possibly causing an oil spill.

“It’s a scary thought,” said Joel Gates of Glocester, a member of Save the Bay. “Hopefully it won’t happen, but we have to make sure our voices are heard.”

Bill Brown, chief environmental officer for BOEM, said the public comments taken from all the states would be part of a report and analysis conducted by BOEM for the Interior Department.

Brown said it was possible BOEM would recommend not to allow drilling in the waters off certain states, including Rhode Island.

“We’re here to listen, gather environmental information, do an analysis and environmental impact statement,” Brown said. “And for the purpose of really seeing whether some areas should be excluded from development.”

Brown said there is a lot of enthusiasm for offshore drilling in Alaska and Gulf Coast states, and more opposition in Atlantic states.

The draft proposal by the Interior Department is broad, including more than 90% of the country’s Outer Continental Shelf available to lease to oil and gas companies. But Brown said the final proposal could be more limited.

It’s unclear if there is interest from oil companies in drilling off Rhode Island, or if oil is even available there. Brown said no one has examined in decades whether there is oil off the New England coast.

Republican candidate for governor Patricia Morgan said she would not support offshore drilling in Rhode Island, but added that she thought it was unlikely that oil rigs would come to the Ocean State.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of it,” Morgan said. “We have to protect our fishing industry.”

Joe Trillo, the Republican-turned-independent candidate for governor who was President Trump’s honorary campaign chairperson for Rhode Island, also said he would not want to see drilling off Rhode Island’s shores.

Republican candidate Allan Fung’s campaign manager said Fung was not commenting on the proposed offshore drilling.

GOP candidate Giovanni Feroce was the most open to the proposal, saying he didn’t think Rhode Island should be against offshore drilling.

”In Rhode Island we should concentrate on supporting the industry by having companies here manufacture equipment, train workers and provide vessels carrying supplies to the operations,” Feroce said.

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Rhode Island native in Florida describes tragedy in his community

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PARKLAND, Fla. (WPRI) — A former member of the Eyewitness News family is sharing his perspective from the devastated community that has lost 17 people in a mass shooting.

Mark Economou is a native of Lincoln, Rhode Island and a former longtime employee and anchor at Eyewitness News. He now lives in Coral Springs, Florida, bordering Parkland. Families from both towns attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman opened fire Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s something that you never think is going to happen in your community,” Economou said in an interview Thursday. “There’s plenty of folks we know here in the community that lost their kids.”

Economou’s daughter and son, ages 15 and 17, attend a charter school a mile away from Stoneman Douglas High. But many of their friends attend Stoneman.

“[Morgan’s] friend is 15 years old, and said she was running out just crunching on bullet shell casings,” Economou said.

His son Patrick actually drove to Stoneman Douglas right after getting out of the school, because he had lacrosse practice at the Stoneman field. It was around the same time the shots rang out inside the school.

“By the time I got a hold of him, he was already at the field over at Stoneman Douglas,” Economou said. He works as a public information office for Boca Raton Police, and knew about the shooting right away. “I said to him ‘ you need to get out of there.'”

Patrick drove away, all while first responders were rushing to the scene.

“Conceivably, he could’ve drove right by this guy as he was running the opposite way. That’s how close it was to everything that happened.”

Economou said Patrick ended up driving to a friend’s house, who lived right in the neighborhood where suspect Nikolas Cruz was ultimately captured by police.

Both of Economou’s children attended a candlelight vigil in Parkland on Thursday night. Economou said many of their friends are devastated, traumatized, and don’t know when they’ll be going back to school.

“How do you tell your kids that it’s okay?” Economou asked. “That it’s safe to go back to school? How do you say that? Because we don’t even know.”

Florida School Shooting: In-Depth Coverage » | Remembering the Victims » | Talking to Children about Tragedy » | How to React to an Active Shooter »

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Warwick man sentenced to 15 years for terrorist plot after flipping for the government

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BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) — Occasionally choking back tears, a Warwick man who plotted to behead a conservative blogger renounced ISIS in a Boston courtroom Wednesday morning, vowing to become a productive member of society after he serves time for his role in the terrorist plot.

Nicholas Rovinski, 27, was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for conspiring to support ISIS and conspiring to commit an act of terrorism. He will receive credit for time served behind bars since his arrest in June 2015.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann acknowledged in court that Rovinski differed from other federal terror subjects in that he has publicly renounced ISIS and was willing to cooperate with federal investigators, including testifying for three days against his co-conspirator David Wright.

Siegmann said Rovinski never complained nor wavered in his decision to cooperate during long prep sessions for his testimony, even as threats were made to kill him and his family and to behead his cat.

Rovinski, Wright and Wright’s uncle Usaamah Rahim all plotted to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller back in 2015, after ISIS (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State Group) issued a decree urging members to kill her over a cartoon contest of the Prophet Muhammad. The plot was never carried out.

“I’m striving to be a new man,” Rovinski said in court Wednesday. “I accept responsibility for my actions.” He said his crimes, for which he pleaded guilty in 2016, were full of “animus” and “evil.”

Rovinski also said he hopes to be a productive member of society upon his release, aiming to do charity work to help the poor and veterans. “He feels really badly about having signed on to an ideology that is inimical to the military forces that protect the country,” defense attorney William Fick said outside court.

While the plea agreement called for a possible sentence of 15-22 years, prosecutors and the defense team jointly recommended the lower-end 15 year sentence on Wednesday.

“There’s no doubt that the defendant…posed a grave threat to the United States in June 2015,” Siegmann said. She said his diagnosis of cerebral palsy is “not an excuse, but part of why he was so swayed” by Wright.

Court sketch of David Wright in court.

Wright was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted by a jury in October. He was painted as the mastermind of the beheading plot, manipulating Rovinski into agreeing to the plan. Rahim, the third co-conspirator, was killed by police back in 2015 after lunging at officers with a knife.

After his arrest, Rovinski wrote two letters in prison to Wright, continuing to express a desire to recruit people to ISIS. But prosecutors said he later denounced the ideology and has fully cooperated since.

In emotional letters to the court, Rovinski’s family members described him as someone who had trouble fitting in, in part because of his disability, and asserted he was “brainwashed” by Wright after Rovinski turned to Islam following some troubled teen years.

“They knew he was vulnerable and naive, and that he was a lost young man trying to fit in and find friends,” Rovinski’s mother Lori Rovinski wrote in a letter to the court, asking for leniency.

Family members declined to comment on the sentence after the hearing.

Rovinski’s Twitter photo from 2015

“If he hadn’t had the misfortune for encountering Mr. Wright online, this phase may have gone by unnoticed,” said Fick.

Still, Fick agreed the sentence as fair, while also calling it an “extremely, extremely severe punishment.”

Judge Bill Young recommended that Rovinski be placed at FCI Danbury in Connecticut, a low-security facility where he would participate in a skills program. He was also ordered to have no contact with Pamela Geller, and to be on supervised release for the rest of his life once he completes his sentence.

“These are most serious crimes,” Young said to Rovinski. “I’m glad you can acknowledge how fair the government has been.”


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Nancy Pelosi assails Republican tax reform bill during RI visit

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the Republican tax bill “mean-spirited” in a visit to Rhode Island Monday, criticizing the bill as bad for the middle class.

“The middle class will pay more,” Pelosi told reporters after a tour at the Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick. “Under this bill, future generations will pay more because the deficit will explode.”

Pelosi slammed the Republicans’ pitch as a “farce,” particularly in the proposed doubling of the standard deduction, which she said would not cover the cuts made to other specialized deductions including medical costs, mortgage interest and student loan interest.

Flanked by Democratic Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, she slammed Republican leadership for declining to work in a bipartisan manner to reform the tax code.

“I don’t like to spend too much time on process,” Pelosi said. “Except when the process is such that it’s done with the speed of light, in the dark of night so that nobody knows what’s in the bill and how it affects them.”

Members of the House Ways and Means committee began the process of marking up the bill on Monday. Republican leadership is aiming to get the bill passed by Thanksgiving.

Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump have touted the tax reform bill as a tax cut for middle-income families, lowering rates and simplifying the tax code.

The bill cuts the number of tax brackets from seven to four. It sets a 12% tax rate for people who make up to $45,000 per year, a 25% rate for earners between $45,000 and $200,000, a 35% rate for earners above $200,000 and a top rate of 39.6% for individuals who make more than $500,000.

The income thresholds for married couples would be $90,000, $260,000 and $1 million for the 25%, 35% and 39.6% rates, respectively.

The standard deduction would double to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families.

“This is absolutely a middle-class tax cut,” said Mike Stenhouse, the CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a conservative group. He called Pelosi’s comments “more mindless, shameless fake news.”

The Democrats also criticized the cut to the corporate tax rate in the bill, which Republicans have said will grow jobs and wages.

Rhode Island Republican Chairman Brandon Bell said Monday he supports the tax reform efforts in Washington.

“Tax reform will give Rhode Islanders millions in tax relief that they need,” Bell said in a statement. He also took a jab at Rhode Island’s proposed PawSox stadium deal, pointing out that the GOP tax bill would cut tax-exempt stadium bonds.

“Eliminating this tax break will not only save American taxpayers billions, but it will put an end to the PawSox deal now being considered at the State House,” Bell said. “Under tax reform, Rhode Islanders will get millions in tax relief and it will stop State House politicians from wasting millions in taxpayer dollars on a new stadium.

Crime, Local News, National, News, Providence, Top Video

FBI cracking down on human trafficking in Rhode Island communities

[anvplayer video=”WPRI:1533657″] PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When FBI divisions nationwide conducted a three-day crackdown on human trafficking and child exploitation last month, the sting turned up one arrest in Rhode Island, in the seaside town of Tiverton. Police there arrested Jerry Isme, 27, who lives in Boston, for allegedly trafficking a 16-year-old girl.

The arrest sheds light on what the FBI tells Eyewitness News is a common misconception: that sex trafficking is mostly taking place in large cities. Traffickers don’t discriminate by zip code when they choose their victims, according to Special Agent Brooks Broadus, because the internet allows them to target vulnerable women and girls from anywhere.

“We’ve seen girls from Maine all the way though Rhode Island, and they’re actually being groomed from Boston,” Special Agent Broadus said in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News on Wednesday. Broadus said the I-95 corridor is often used to traffic victims along the east coast.

In the Tiverton case, a police report obtained by Eyewitness News describes police approaching Isme after he parked his car at a location police did not disclose. A woman and a teenage girl were in the car, according to police, along with two boxes of condoms and a hotel room card.

“I was just giving them a ride,” police say Isme told them. “I already told y’all I’m not selling them [girls], I’m not getting paid for this.” The officer who wrote the report said he had not asked Isme if he was selling the girl, who police later discovered was 16. The victim spoke to police and Isme was charged with sex trafficking of a minor.

The sting was part of Operation Cross Country, the eleventh iteration of the nationwide FBI initiative that ran from Oct. 12-15. According to the FBI, 84 exploited children were rescued and 120 traffickers were arrested.

“Anyone can be vulnerable to this situation given the right opportunity,” Broadus said. He said victims come from low-income and wealthy communities, and span all races and ethnicities.

The “pimps,” as the traffickers are called, are typically able to groom their victims into believing a lifestyle in the sex trade would be glamorous and lucrative, before trapping them in a situation that can be difficult to escape from. The FBI says some suspects use a tactic called “debt bondage,” where traffickers charge victims for transportation and other living costs that they’ll never be able to pay down.

“A predator knows who their victims are,” Agent Broadus said. “They understand who are the weak ones that they can actually exploit…they will recognize that in a child and start exploiting them.”

Warwick Detective Kerri Chatten works on the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force, which investigates these crimes and often infiltrates hotel rooms, truck stops and private residences to rescue exploited children.

She says a big part of catching the predators involves cooperation from hotels and motels, where sex crimes are often committed.  A brochure provided to Eyewitness News advises housekeepers to look for “multiple condoms in the trash,” or men waiting in the hall. Employees who work in the lobby are encouraged to converse with minors arriving with adults to try and get a sense of whether they are in danger.

“If we can get to these young people at a younger age and we can provide them services and help them, maybe we can prevent it,” Detective Chatten said.

There are warning signs for parents to look for, such as a girl coming home with expensive gifts and phones with no explanation, or a drastic change in behavior after starting to associate with a new person. Some victims are even “branded” with tattoos by their pimps.

The FBI only recently began reporting sex crime statistics to its Uniform Crime Report, but the first report that came out in 2015 only contained data from 13 states. The FBI is planning to collect more data in future reports.

According to data from the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s office, there were 11 sex trafficking cases prosecuted in Rhode Island in 2016. Year-to-date in 2017, U.S. Attorney spokesperson Jim Martin said there have been eight cases. Year-to-date statistics from the Attorney General’s office were not immediately available.

The numbers are almost certainly lower than the total number of victims, because sex trafficking crimes are under-reported by victims. Special Agent Broadus said that’s the reason the FBI is not focused on arresting women in prostitution cases, because it often takes 8-10 contacts with a victim before they disclose they are being trafficked.

According to the FBI, these are possible indicators of human trafficking:

  • Working in the same place they live
  • Poor living conditions
  • Letting someone else speak for them
  • Not being in possession of their own travel/immigration documents
  • Locks being on the outside of doors rather than inside
  • Increasing debt
  • Boss taking their pay
  • Paying boss for food, clothing, rent
  • Not free to leave
  • Someone always watching/guarding
  • Threatened by boss

Victims who need assistance can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at (888) 373-7888, or their local police department.

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RI congressional delegation signs on to ban on ‘bump stocks’

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s four Democratic congressmen have signed on to a bill in both the House and Senate chambers to ban the use of so-called “bump stocks,” devices that can be used to convert semi-automatic weapons to shoot automatic gunfire.

Rep. David Cicilline introduced the “Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act” in the House Wednesday. The bill would ban bump-fire stocks, trigger cranks or any device or accessory that accelerates the rate of fire from a semi-automatic weapon.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said Stephen Paddock, the gunman who rained bullets down on concertgoers on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night, had 12 bump-stock devices that allowed him to convert semi-automatic weapons to fire automatic gunfire.

At least 58 people were killed in the shooting.

“There’s no good reason for anyone to have one of those devices,” Rep. Cicilline said in a interview with the Eyewitness News Washington Bureau. “It will only increase the likelihood that tremendous harm can come to a community if someone were to use that.”

The bill was also introduced in the Senate, co-sponsored by both Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. Rep. Jim Langevin is co-sponsoring the House bill.

Eyewitness News asked Ed Doyle from the Rhode Island chapter of Gun Rights Across America what he thought of the proposed ban.

“Should they be legal to own? I will answer it [this] way…should it be legal to sell fireworks so easily obtained and a pressure cooker or two or three? It is the person not the object that has the evil intent to kill,” Doyle said in an email.

It is still to be seen if the proposal will get a vote in the Republican-controlled congress, but several Republicans have so far said they would be open to looking at the issue.

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Rhode Island to host Canadian PM, 30 governors at NGA next week

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially announced Friday he’ll be meeting with U.S. governors in Rhode Island next week as part of a three-day summit.

The National Governors Association summer meeting will kick off Wednesday night in Providence, bringing 30 governors and more than 1,000 people to the area, according to Gov. Gina Raimondo.

“It was a competitive process,” Raimondo said Friday of getting the conference held in Rhode Island. “It hasn’t been here in a very long time. I think what happened is I gave a speech to the other governors and promised lobster on the Atlantic, and that got them all.”

The jam-packed agenda for the conference ends with a clambake in Newport and fireworks on Saturday night.

Keynote speakers at the NGA meeting include Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Trudeau, who said Friday he would be focusing on trade, border security and climate change.

“No countries share a closer bond than Canada and the United States,” Trudeau said in a statement. “I will continue to work with all orders of the U.S. government to create good, middle class jobs on both sides of the border, and to find solutions to the challenges we face together.”

“I’m excited to have the prime minister here, and of course show off Rhode Island to him,” Raimondo added. “I believe anyone who comes to Rhode Island falls in love with Rhode Island.”

Raimondo said the most pressing issue she plans to discuss at the NGA meeting is the opioid overdose crisis.

“It’s the biggest public health crisis that we face in Rhode Island and that many governors are struggling with, so I want to talk about that and see if I can get some ideas. Because people are dying and we need to do more,” Raimondo said.

She also touted the economic benefit to the region. Events will be held at various Providence venues including the Convention Center, Providence Performing Arts Center, Biltmore and Omni Hotels.

“We’ll have over 1,000 people here staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants. So it’s great for our economy, it’s great for tourism,” Raimondo said. “I joked, I gave a speech saying ‘we’re going to have a clambake for you.’ A lot of the governors from Iowa and Ohio didn’t know what that was. I think they’re going to come here and fall in love. It puts Rhode Island on the map.”

Raimondo said President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both been invited to the NGA summit. A spokesperson for the event said neither man has confirmed if he will attend.

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Michelle Carter found guilty in texting suicide case

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TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — A judge handed down a guilty verdict Friday morning in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michelle Carter, a 20-year-old woman who urged her boyfriend to kill himself back in 2014 when the two were teenagers.

The trial garnered international attention and conversation about teen suicide, depression and the impacts of texting.

“The Commonwealth has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Carter’s actions, and also her failure to act, where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy since she had put him into that toxic environment, constituted each and all wanton and reckless conduct,” Judge Lawrence Moniz said before he rendered his verdict. “Said conduct caused the death of Mr. Roy.”

Judge Moniz allowed Carter to remain out on bail until her sentencing on August 3.

Conrad Roy III took his own life on July 12, 2014 by using a generator to fill his pickup truck with carbon monoxide in a Fairhaven parking lot. But prosecutors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts charged Carter with causing his death, arguing her constant urging that he go through with his suicide plans was akin to killing him.

The judge said the encouragement alone was not enough to prove she caused his death, but the combination of those messages and the evidence that Carter told him to get back in his truck during the suicide attempt is what led to his determination that she was guilty.

“Ms. Carter…had reason to know that Mr. Roy had followed her instruction and had placed himself in the toxic environment of that truck,” Moniz said.

He said the fact that Roy had previously attempted suicide had no bearing on this case.

Roy’s father, Conrad Roy Jr., briefly thanked the judge, prosecution and police for their work on the case.

“This has been a very tough time for our family, and we’d just like to process this verdict that we’re happy with,” Roy told reporters.

“Although we are very pleased with the verdict, in reality there are no winners here today,” Assistant District Attorney Katie Rayburn said. “Conrad, an 18-year-old boy, is dead. And a young woman is now convicted of causing his death. Two families have been torn apart and will be affected by this for years to come.”

She said she hoped the verdict would bring closure to Roy’s family and friends.

Friends and family members of Conrad Roy III listen as Judge Lawrence Moniz announces his verdict on 6/16/17. Michelle Carter was found Guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the suicide of Conrad Roy III. Photo by Glenn C.Silva/Fairhaven Neighborhood News.

“He was a wonderful young man who had his whole life in front of him. He was making efforts to better himself and to find his way through a difficult stage of his life,” Rayburn said. “I know we all wish that he had the opportunity to grow up into adulthood, to become a tugboat captain and to enjoy his future.”

She also acknowledged the great deal of attention the case has received.

“We fully understand that this was a unique case that dealt with a lot of important issues in our society today,” Rayburn said. “But in the end, the case was about one young man and one young woman who were brought together by tragic circumstances. The evidence clearly showed but not for the actions of Michelle Carter, Conrad Roy would still be alive the morning of July 13, 2014.”

Carter’s defense attorney Joseph Cataldo said he was disappointed in the verdict but declined to comment further while sentencing is still pending.

Cataldo had argued that Roy made the decision to take his own life, pointing to a previous suicide attempt and evidence of suicidal thoughts dating back years. In a suicide note left behind for Carter, Roy thanked her for trying to help him and did not ascribe blame.

The defense also hired an expert witness, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, who testified that he believed Carter was “involuntarily intoxicated” by antidepressants when she sent the texts urging Roy to take his own life.

Judge Moniz said he did not find Dr. Breggin credible.

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The Signs and How to get Help >>

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Raimondo, Baker join US Climate Alliance

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker have both joined a new coalition of states responding to President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The United States Climate Alliance was formed Thursday night by the governors of New York, California and Washington State. Democratic Governor Raimondo and Republican Governor Baker joined Friday, along with Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat, and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican.

The coalition says its aim is to uphold the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement, even if the federal government will not.

“My position is that we’re going to still lead here in Rhode Island. Climate change is real, we’re going to meet the challenge,” Raimondo told Eyewitness News on Friday.

Raimondo has previously announced a plan for Rhode Island to have 1,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2020, which would represent 10 times more clean energy than the state had in 2016. She has also said she wants to double the amount of clean energy jobs by that date.

Rhode Island recently received national attention when it became home to the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

“America ought to be the leader,” Raimondo said. “We should be leading the way in the world on issues like climate change. And if Washington won’t do that, then we’re going to lead the way right here in Rhode Island.”

While opposition to Trump’s decision to pull out of the 200-country deal was swift and widespread, some supporters of his action said the deal was unfair, and leaving it would not stop the country from achieving climate goals.

“Withdrawal from the Paris Accord doesn’t mean we as a country will not still invest our time in climate concerns, it just means we will do it at our pace,” said state Rep. Bobby Nardolillo, a Coventry Republican. “Do not be fooled by scare tactics from extreme activists in response to the President’s decision.”

Nardolillo is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in 2018.

Whitehouse, a second-term Democrat who has prioritized climate change during his time in Congress, lambasted Trump’s decision. “Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers’ climate denial operation,” he said in a statement.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, the last Republican nominee for Rhode Island governor who is considering a rematch against Raimondo in 2018, will be forging ahead with efforts to thwart climate change, according to spokesman Mark Schieldrop.

“The president’s decision won’t change Cranston’s efforts to address climate impacts, protect the environment and promote sustainability,” Schieldrop said. He said the city will be kicking off new participation in a solar program next week.

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