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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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Crime, Massachusetts, New England, News, Top Video

DA: Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez killed 2 over spilled drink

In-Depth Coverage: Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial »

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BOSTON (WPRI) — On the opening day of the double murder trial of Aaron Hernandez, a prosecutor painted a picture of an agitated, paranoid man who detested disrespect and killed two men because one of them spilled a drink on him.

The defense sowed doubt on the prosecutor’s star witness and claimed law enforcement mishandled evidence and intimidated witnesses in order to pin the crimes on Hernandez.

Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, is already serving a life sentence for the unrelated 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.

In the Boston case, which dates back to July 2012, prosecutors say Hernandez killed 29-year-old Daniel de Abreu and 28-year-old Safiro Furtado outside Club Cure in the city’s theater district.

“Daniel de Abreu danced into Aaron Hernandez and he spilled his drink,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan told a jury in his opening statement Wednesday. He alleged that Hernandez took the encounter as a sign of disrespect and it was the motive for the murder.

Haggan said Hernandez and the victims did not know each other and came from “two very different worlds” that collided that night.

“One world was that of working-class immigrants, relatively recently in this country. The other world was that of a professional athlete, a celebrity in the city of Boston,” Haggan explained.

Safiro Furtado and Daniel De Abreu (Photos shown in court)
Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu (Photos shown in court)

Haggan said after the drink was spilled, Hernandez and his friend, Alexander Bradley waited for two hours for de Abreu, Furtado and three other friends to leave the nightclub. When they did, Haggan claims Hernandez fired five gunshots out the window of his own car into the victims’ car, killing de Abreu and Furtado and wounding one of the other men, who survived.

“Two men’s lives were snuffed out in a hail of gunfire,” Haggan said.

Bradley, who prosecutors allege Hernandez shot in the face in Florida a year later, is the prosecution’s star witness. Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation in the case of Bradley.

Hernandez’ defense attorney, Jose Baez, painted a different picture of the night in question, casting doubt on Bradley’s credibility and floating the possibility that Bradley himself could have committed the murder.

“This story not only doesn’t make sense, it’s outright crazy,” Baez said. The defense attorney gained nationwide fame in 2011 after getting Casey Anthony acquitted of murdering her daughter.

Baez told jurors in his opening statement that crucial video evidence of the spilled-drink encounter from the nightclub  “disappeared,” and outright accused law enforcement of mishandling the crime scene.

“The one piece of evidence – the main piece of evidence…is missing. It disappeared,” Baez said. He also claimed that Boston police mishandled the victims’ bodies, contaminating them with sheets and allowing a street-sweeper to pass through the crime scene.

Baez offered an alternative scenario, arguing that one of the victims knew Alexander Bradley.

“This didn’t happen over a spilled drink,” Baez said. “This happened over a drug deal. Alexander Bradley had issues with Daniel de Abreu.”

Abreu’s sister disputed that theory, testifying that her brother did not do drugs. She was asked by the defense if she was aware of a connection between Abreu and “a narcotics provider from Connecticut.”

“No, that doesn’t sound like my brother at all,” Neusa Abreu said. It was her car that Daniel borrowed the night he went to Club Cure, and he ultimately died inside the silver BMW. She said Abreu was a military veteran in his home country of Cape Verde and also a police officer.

Safiro Furtado’s sister was also called to the stand Wednesday, and also testified that her brother did not do drugs. Both sisters sobbed as they were asked to identify photos of their brothers.

The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.

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Crime, Local News, Massachusetts, New England, News, SE Mass, Top Video

Police: Quincy officer fired shots, threatened to kill police

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RAYNHAM, Mass. (WPRI) — The 18-year veteran of the Quincy Police Department who engaged in a standoff with police Monday night threatened to kill officers and fired two shots at a door when he knew an officer was on the other side, a Raynham police report said.

The report obtained by Eyewitness News details the situation that unfolded on Britton Street that resulted in a three-hour armed standoff between Officer Keith Wilbur and the Raynham-Taunton SWAT team, along with Massachusetts State Police and other police departments.

According to the police report, Wilbur’s wife called police Monday night to report him missing, fearing for his safety. While on the phone with Raynham police, Wilbur returned home and become angry that his wife called the police. He barricaded himself in his basement, where police say he keeps 74 firearms registered to his name.

Quincy Police Officer Keith Wilbur
Quincy Police Officer Keith Wilbur

Officer Frank Pacheco writes in the report that he talked to Wilbur, who was apparently drunk, through the basement door, trying to get him come out. Pacheco writes, “Keith continued to yell and swear and tell me not to come down the stairs or he would murder me. I then heard the sounds of a firearm being loaded.”

Police say Wilbur shot two rounds up the stairs into the basement door, with Officer Pacheco on the other side.

After a three-hour standoff in which police say Wilbur periodically left the home armed with a rifle, Wilbur surrendered to the police. He was charged with armed assault with intent to murder, threatening to commit a crime, carrying a firearm under the influence of liquor, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and destruction of property.

He appeared in Taunton District Court for an arraignment Tuesday afternoon, remaining hidden behind a door. A dangerousness hearing was set for Friday, when the matter of his bail will also be determined.

Officer Keith Wilbur peers through the glass in a door as he hid from view during his arraignment at Taunton Trial Court. (Photo: Mike Gay/Taunton Gazette)
Officer Keith Wilbur peers through the glass in a door as he hid from view during his arraignment at Taunton District Court. (Photo: Mike Gay/Taunton Gazette)

Wilbur’s mother, who only identified herself as Cindy, briefly defended her son outside court.

“It’s not as bad as people are making it out to be,” she said. “My son is not like that.”

Wilbur’s defense attorney Josh Werner said he doesn’t believe his client has a mental health issue and that the incident was likely stress-related.

“Being a cop these days is not an easy job,” Werner said. “There are an amazing number of stressors that we as general citizens can’t even believe to understand what they go through on a daily basis.”

Werner said he would more fully explain Wilbur’s side of the story at Friday’s hearing.

Wilbur has been suspended from the Quincy Police Department with pay pending an investigation. He’s been with the force for 18 years. Before that, according to his mother, Wilbur served in the United States Air Force.

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