Local News, National, News, Providence, Top Video, US & World

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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Crime, Local News, Massachusetts, National, New England, News, SE Mass, Top Video, US & World, West Bay

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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Economy, Local News, National, News, Politics, Top Video, US & World

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.

International, Local News, National, News, Politics, Providence, Top Video, US & World

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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Local News, Massachusetts, National, News, Politics, Top Video, US & World

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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Local News, National, New England Patriots, News, SE Mass, sports, Top Video, US & World

Vendor: It’ll cost at least $3,750 to watch Patriots-Falcons in person

FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — Seeing the New England Patriots make a run for the Vince Lombardi trophy is becoming business as usual for fans of the team, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less excited to root them on.

However, doing so in person won’t come cheap.

Ryan Kelley, sales manager for Boston-based Ace Ticket, said the cheapest ticket to get into the big game currently stands at $3,750.

That may seem like a lot to pay to watch a football game, but Kelley said it’s a lot more affordable than the last time the Patriots were in it.

“That Super Bowl against Seattle, tickets ballooned up to $10,000, $12,000 apiece,” he said. “So compared to that, they’re a fairly reasonable price.”

There’s no way of telling if the prices will go up or down from here, according to Kelley, so he said it might be in fans’ best interest to act sooner rather than later.

“If a price looks right and you’re comfortable paying it at that time, certainly go ahead and grab it because it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen from here,” Kelley explained.

Patriots Playoff Push: See and Submit Your Fan Photos »
Patriots Playoff Push: See and Submit Your Fan Photos »

Kelley said prices actually went down after the Dallas Cowboys were knocked out of the running.

The Patriots overpowered the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night to advance to the Super Bowl. They’ll soon head to Houston to take on the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

For the seventh time in the Brady-Belichick era, fans went out to score AFC Championship gear after the big win.

“They played like they’re supposed to play, they did their job, and it made me feel good,” said Dave Pomarico of Foxboro, a lifelong Patriots fan.

Fans at Gillette Stadium on Monday did little to hide their glee that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend Tom Brady for the first four games of the season didn’t hurt the Patriots’ chances of bringing home another title.

“It shows it’s a complete failure,” said Dana Wilkins of North Attleboro. “I’m not surprised that they’re going to the Super Bowl.”

“We came back and showed them we can win no matter what,” added Diane Umile of Weymouth.

Watch the Patriots and the Falcons go head-to-head on Sunday, Feb. 5 on Fox Providence. Eyewitness News will be bringing you all the sights and sounds leading up to the big game with live reports from Yianni Kourakis and Kelly Sullivan in Houston.

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Local News, Massachusetts, National, News, Top Video, US & World, West Bay

RI man pleads guilty to conspiring to help ISIS

[anvplayer video=”1097880″] BOSTON (WPRI) — A Warwick man charged with conspiring with two others to help ISIS and commit terror in the United States has pleaded guilty.

Nicholas Rovinski, 25, appeared in a Boston federal court Thursday afternoon to admit to two charges including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and conspiracy to help foreign terrorist group ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State group.

“I feel in the interest of myself and the people of the United States, I should pay for the crimes that I have committed,” Rovinski said in court, after judge Bill Young asked him why he was pleading guilty to the charges.

Rovinski faces a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 22 years in prison under his plea deal, with supervised release for the rest of his life.

Rovinski was arrested last year after prosecutors say he and two Massachusetts men, David Wright and Usaamah Rahim, plotted to behead New York blogger Pamela Geller, who drew ire from some Muslims after she organized an art exhibit competition featuring the prophet Muhammad.

Rahim, who was killed by police in June 2015, was in contact with ISIS operatives overseas, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann, and planned the attack with Wright and Rovinski. The plot was stopped before it was carried out.

Wright and Rovinski also downloaded ISIS magazines that promoted beheadings and an e-book instructional manual about how to travel to Syria to meet with ISIS, according to Siegmann. The two met at a Warwick beach to discuss their plan.

After Rovinski pleaded guilty, his attorney William Fick told reporters he had renounced ISIS.

“It’s important to note he never actually hurt anybody, never came close to carrying out the outlandish plans that were discussed,” Fick said.

Prosecutors say that Rovinski — even from jail — tried to recruit people to help carry out plans for violent attacks in the United States, including the beheading of nonbelievers.

“He has unequivocally renounced violence, renounced terrorism, and he’s come a long, long way since he was first arrested last summer….he’s really returned to being the person he was before all this started,” Fick said, declining to answer any questions from reporters.

U.S. attorney Siegmann declined to comment on the plea because of the upcoming trial of alleged co-conspirator David Wright, whose trial is slated to begin Feb. 6.

Rovinski is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23.

 

Rovinski's Twitter photo, where he goes under the alias

 

 

Crime, Local News, News, Providence, SE Mass, US & World

Fall River cops nab murder suspect from Puerto Rico

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – A fugitive wanted in connection with a triple homicide in Puerto Rico is on the run no more.

Rhode Island State Police Maj. Joseph Philbin confirmed for Eyewitness News that police captured Pedro Torres in Fall River Thursday.

While the details of the arrest have not yet been released, Philbin said authorities had been watching a location in the city hoping Torres would return and he finally did.

Police from several Rhode Island agencies began searching for Torres, 36, after U.S. Marshals spotted him on Orms Street in Providence last month. They conducted a massive manhunt Aug. 19, canvassing the area north of the train station and some mill buildings on Charles and Canal Streets, to no avail.

According to state police, Torres was considered to be armed and dangerous.

Philbin said Torres was released on bail after his arrest in Puerto Rico.

(Fall River Police photo)
(Fall River Police photo)

“From what I’ve heard, it’s a restaurant he went into and opened fire, hitting three people and killing them,” Philbin said. “That was in 2014, I believe.”

Police say they believe Torres came to Rhode Island to visit his girlfriend and baby daughter. In fact, he was visiting his girlfriend last year when police arrested him on a warrant.

According to Fall River Police, Torress will be held overnight and is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

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Local News, National, News, Providence, US & World

Expert explains pollen forensics that may connect Ohio cold case to New England

[anvplayer video=”911224″ /] PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — You’ve probably never heard of the young woman found dead in 1981 more than 600 miles away near Troy, Ohio. Police have never identified the remains of the woman, found in pigtails and estimated to be in her teens or twenties.

Friday, the Miami County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio released new lab results that indicate the woman, dubbed Jane Doe, may have spent a “significant” amount of time in the Northeast. Based on the oak pollen on her clothing, authorities say the area includes Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

“They’re trying to find where she might have been,” said W. Michael Sullivan, a Professor of Plant Sciences at URI. Sullivan works with the Rhode Island State Crime Lab on plant-related forensics, and we asked him to explain how 35-year-old pollen could heat up this cold case.

“35 years is a flash of time,” Sullivan explained. “While it’s no longer capable of pollinating things, the structure remains intact, and many trees, many plants have unique colors, unique shapes.”

Sullivan says as long as the clothing wasn’t washed, pollen can be preserved for hundreds of years. An expert using a microscope can identify the species and genus of the plant it came from and match it with the area where the plant is found.

Testing pollen is not new technology, Sullivan said. But he said forensic testing in the area has improved over the years.

“Being able to recover it, being able to look at it, being able to count…our ability to manage data has gotten quite a bit better.”

Last year, officials in Massachusetts used pollen testing to determine that Baby Doe, later identified as Bella Bond, was from the local area.

Police are asking anyone who recognized the composite photos of Jane Doe from Ohio to contact Detective Steve Hickey with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, 937-440-3965 ext. 6629 or the Miami County Communication Center at 937-440-9911.

Local News, News, Politics, US & World

Cicilline returns from Christmas in Iraq with clearer view on ISIS strategy

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline (D) returned from Iraq Sunday with a a strong view on military strategy in the Middle East.

He traveled to Kuwait and Iraq over Christmas week to spend time with troops who couldn’t be home with their families.

“It was a real privilege just to be able to be there during the holidays and say thank you to these heroes,” he said in an interview with Eyewitness News Sunday. Cicilline spent time with ten Rhode Island service members in Kuwait before traveling to Iraq for Christmas, where he had dinner with troops and military leaders.

His trip included meetings with military strategists including the top commander overseeing operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland. He said those leaders reported progress in efforts to support and train the Iraqi army.

“It has to be a coalition,” Rep. Cicilline said. “The fighting and boots on the ground have to be led by the Iraqis…[they] have to be both capable and willing to defend their own country and make their own future.”

Cicilline said he was more convinced than ever that the United States needs to let Iraq and Syria take back their own countries from ISIS. He also says the trip made him realize the military operation against the Islamic State would be a long one, if it is to succeed.

“We have the ability to go in tomorrow and in a very short period of time, with massive military engagement by the United States, to kill every member of ISIS,” Cicilline said.  “The reality is that then you give birth to the sons and daughters of ISIS. And that’s not a long term strategy.”

He called on Congress to take a vote to authorize the use of military force, in order to encourage further public discourse about military strategy. Such a vote would also put each member of Congress on the record about their stance on the military campaign.

Rep. Cicilline serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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