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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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Hazmat incident at CCRI sends officer, civilian to hospital

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A Warwick police officer and a second person were taken to the hospital Thursday following a hazardous materials incident at CCRI’s Knight campus.

The incident took place at about 12:30 p.m. in the area of the athletic fields, which is currently closed off. A hazmat team and other emergency responders remain on scene.

City officials said the officer went to check on a homeless person and began to feel faint after coming into contact with an unknown substance. The officer was treated with Narcan at the scene and taken to the hospital, along with a civilian worker. Both are expected to be OK, according to officials.

Four additional police officers were treated on scene.

The school sent out an alert to students and staff, assuring there’s no threat to the community and noting that the campus’s Commonwealth Avenue entrance is closed.

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Fire Department: Warwick schools without working fire alarms are safe

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Warwick fire officials say the procedures they’ve put in place at two elementary schools with broken fire alarm systems will protect the children and teachers.

On Friday, one firefighter was placed at each of the two elementary schools – Norwood and Holliman – as part of a “fire watch” at each school. The placement of the firefighters comes one day after outcry from parents who were notified that the alarms have been broken since Feb. 24.

The firefighters will patrol the hallways looking for signs of smoke and fire and are equipped with a radio and a cell phone so they can notify fire dispatch in case of a fire. The firefighters would also notify the front office to make an announcement over the intercom for the school to be evacuated.

Before Friday, the fire department had instituted a fire watch program with the school’s custodians, who had to sign in and out of fire watch duty and were instructed that this be their sole job for the duration of the fire watch.

“A fire watch detail doesn’t necessary mean it has to be a firefighter,” Assistant Fire Chief James Kenney said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “These buildings are absolutely safe.”

Kenney said the department decided to swap out the custodians with firefighters in order to put parents at ease. Many were distressed to be notified on Thursday that the alarms weren’t working, despite the fact that the school district had known about the problem for a month.

“That should have happened earlier. It didn’t, and should have,” Superintendent Philip Thornton admitted Thursday. When asked again on Friday, Thornton would not give a reason for the delay in notification.

Kenney said he was absolutely sure that the buildings were just as safe with the fire watch protocols as they would be if the fire alarm systems were working.

“I had a number of calls yesterday that I spoke to parents and I understand they were pretty worked up, and I get that,” Kenney said, adding that his own son is in elementary school, although not at one of the affected schools. “We would not have those buildings occupied by the children of Warwick and the teachers of Warwick if we didn’t feel that they were safe.”

Eyewitness News has requested the most recent fire inspection reports for the two elementary schools. The city of Warwick did not provide the documents Friday and said the request was being processed.

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Avedisian endorses consolidation plan, calls for one year delay

WARWICK, R.I (WPRI) — Mayor Scott Avedisian announced Thursday he’s endorsing a plan to further consolidate schools in the city, while also recommending to the school committee that the implementation of any consolidation is delayed a year.

Warwick’s school committee has held a number of public hearings in recent weeks about the decision to close John Wickes and Randall Holden elementary schools, and turn John Brown Francis elementary school into an early childhood center. Warwick just completed another school consolidation plan that included turning Warwick Veterans High School into a middle school in order to accommodate students from Aldrich and Gorton junior high schools, which were closed. Previous Warwick Vets students now attend Pilgrim High School.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Thursday, Mayor Avedisian, a Republican, said he hoped to delay the elementary school consolidation efforts because of problems with buildings not being ready in time for the first consolidation. He said he asked the school committee to either delay the conversation about consolidation for a year, or delay the implementation for a year after voting.

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the plan on Oct. 25.

Parents and teachers have attended highly emotional public hearings on the matter, asking the school committee not to close their schools. But the mayor and the school committee agree that declining enrollment makes consolidation necessary.

“This has been a difficult process through all stages,” Mayor Avedisian said. “Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. However, I believe that voting on school closures, but delaying the implementation process a year will help parents and students plan their next steps while simultaneously allowing the School Committee and School Department to further examine the long-term needs of the Warwick School system.” Avedisian said under the city’s charter, the school committee is independent and under no obligation to agree to the one-year delay, but he hopes they’ll consider his recommendation.

Mayor Avedisian’s Democratic mayoral opponent weighed in on the controversial issue as well.

“We have to get this right,” Richard Corrente said in an emailed statement. “There are tens of millions of dollars at stake. There will be a profound effect on students. We can not do anything but delay it. Phase 1 isn’t complete yet. We can not move on to Phase 2 until Phase 1 is complete. If you try, the results won’t be a danger, it will be a disaster.”


 

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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

 

 

Local News, News, West Bay

Business hit by RIPTA bus waits in legal limbo

[anvplayer video=”925095″ /] WARWICK, R.I (WPRI) — It has been four months since an auto parts store in Warwick was destroyed by an out of control RIPTA bus.

Manuel Rosario, who owns The Driver’s Seat, has been left wondering if he’ll ever be able to re-open his business, or recoup the costs of the merchandise he had inside.

He was inside the building, which he shared with a paintball facility, when the bus came crashing in. The impact destroyed three cars in his showroom, and countless car parts he had in stock.

“There was over 40 thousand dollars worth of merchandise,” Rosario said. He purchased the business just four months before the crash.

“Then a bus hit it, and destroyed everything,” he said, revisiting the scene with Eyewitness News on Wednesday. There’s a fence around the building, and the roof is collapsed on top of where Rosario’s business once was. He hasn’t been able to see the extent of the damage inside.

Rosario’s attorney Michael Lombardi told Eyewitness News Rosario rented the space in the building, and did not have renter’s insurance. His only recourse is through RIPTA, which is self-insured. Lombardi filed a claim with the transit agency for the damaged cars and merchandise. He says RIPTA sent out an insurance adjuster to take a look at the damage, but Rosario has yet to see a payment from RIPTA.

A spokesperson for RIPTA declined to comment, citing pending legal claims.

On Thursday, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, who is the Chairman of the RIPTA Board of Directors, sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

We are carefully investigating and evaluating Mr. Rosario’s claim.

We will respond to it as soon as that process is complete. However, because this claim could possibly lead to legal action we cannot comment further.

“It’s just been a waiting game,” Rosario said.

Rosario’s lawyer says RIPTA is “stonewalling” the small business owner, and refuses to take responsibility for the crash. At the time of the accident, investigators said it appeared the driver had a medical emergency.

If RIPTA does not pay the claim soon, Lombardi said he’ll file a lawsuit against the agency.

Meanwhile, Rosario has been a stay-at-home-dad to his 8-month-old daughter. His family is being supported by only his wife’s income.

When asked if he thought he would ever be able to open his business again, Rosario didn’t know.

“I hope,” he said. “I pray.”

Local News, News, Top Video, West Bay

Cops: Uncle stabbed nephew in chest while he slept

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — After a family fight turned into a homicide over the weekend, police are revealing more about a case in which they say a man murdered his nephew and injured his brother with a kitchen knife.

Jared Rogers, 20, was due to be arraigned at Kent County District Court Monday. Instead, Rogers was arraigned at Kent Hospital, after being admitted for a medical condition. There he entered not guilty pleas to one count of murder and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in a dwelling/house.

Rogers is accused of stabbing to death his nephew, Michael Rogers, 19, and injuring his brother, David Rogers, at a home on Haswill Street in Warwick early Saturday morning.

According to the attorney general’s office, Rogers was held without bail and ordered to have no contact with David Rogers.

Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney told Eyewitness News Jared Rogers stabbed his nephew in the chest while he slept, then went into his brother’s room and attacked him. McCartney said David Rogers woke up as his brother was about to stab him and was able to somewhat deflect the attack, but was still stabbed in the abdomen and upper chest area.

Devastated outside the courthouse Monday morning, Andrea Rogers – the suspect’s sister and the victim’s mother – spoke to Eyewitness News about her son.

warwick murder victim michael rogers
Warwick murder victim Michael Rogers. (Family Photo)

“He went to school, he graduated. He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this,” she said.

Rogers said her son stopped a fight involving his uncle several hours before the homicide. Col. McCartney confirmed that police were called around 1:46 a.m. Saturday by Jared Rogers himself.

Police said they removed Rogers from the home because his mother, who also lived there, wanted him out following a fight. But they did not charge him with a crime, McCartney said, because no one in the family had made a criminal complaint against him. Due to his intoxicated state, police brought him to a detox center run by Kent Hospital.

Hours later, police say a sober adult signed Rogers out of the hospital, and dropped him off near his home. The call for the stabbing came in at 5:30 a.m.

“He ends up going back home and killing everybody. How did he get out? I don’t understand this,” Andrea Rogers said.

McCartney said nothing about Rogers indicated to police that he might be dangerous.

In a police report, one of the officers who responded to the initial call of a family fight describes dropping Rogers off at the detox center: “While transporting Jared, he was cordial and making conversation.”

He said he wanted to go to college, something police described as “future oriented.”

“Absolutely nothing, at that point in time, would give you some indication that this individual would end up being a homicidal maniac,” McCartney said.

David Rogers, the surviving stabbing victim, has been interviewed by police, though McCartney said there will be more official statements to come. He said David woke up just before he was stabbed.

“David wakes up, hearing him say something like ‘I’m gonna get you now,’ and sees the knife starting to come down,” McCartney explained. “He manages to block some of the force of the knife thrust coming at him.”

McCartney said David Rogers now says Jared Rogers pulled a knife on the family at the initial fight, but he did not report it to police.

Jared’s sister Andrea said  she never thought her brother would get so violent.

“He was an angry kid,” Andrea Rogers said. “But I didn’t think he would kill my son.”

The stabbing prompted a multi-agency, statewide search for Rogers. Following an extensive manhunt, he was arrested 10 hours later at a North Providence convenience store.

Rogers is due back in court for a bail hearing on April 11.

Courtney Caligiuri contributed to this report. 

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Owner of dogs wanted in deadly attack comes forward

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Warwick police say the owner of two dogs wanted in connection with a deadly attack on another dog has come forward.

Police had been on the lookout for the two dogs since Sunday, when Michelle Noel says she watched her Papillon Stewie get attacked.

“We lost a little member of our family,” she told Eyewitness News. “We lost him in a tragic way. He was just taken from us.”

Noel says she was walking Stewie in Warwick near Woguagonet Avenue and Willow Glen Circle when a Pit bull and Husky approached, off-leash.

“The Pit bull just grabbed Stewie and took him by the neck and started shaking him,” Noel said. She tried to stop the attack, and eventually the dogs took off. Noel rushed Stewie to the animal hospital.

“He was severely, severely bitten,”  Noel said. “He had internal injuries, and he didn’t make it.”

Noel and Warwick Police both posted on Facebook about the attack, hoping the owner would come forward. Warwick Police Major Christine Kelley said he came to the station Wednesday afternoon with both dogs.

Stewie died from his injuries after being attacked by another dog.
Stewie died from his injuries after being attacked by another dog.

Kelley said the owner was cited for breaking the city’s leash law, and the Pit bull would face a vicious dog hearing. The Husky was not involved in the attack, but both animals are being held at Animal Control. It’s possible the dogs could be removed from the owner’s care.

Police said the dogs had been seen several times before the attack running loose in the area. Major Kelley said the Department receives multiple complaints a day about loose dogs.

Michelle Noel plans to identify the dogs on Thursday and then testify when the hearing takes place; she wants the Pit bull’s owner to receive the punishment, not the dog.

“The severest fine they can charge him with,” she said. “I don’t want the Pit bull to be put down.” She said she believes the Pit bull was following its natural instincts, and it’s the owner’s job to be responsible for his dog.

She’s urging all dog owners to keep their animals on leashes, before another dies.

“If it’s not my dog, it’ll be somebody else’s, or a small child,” she said.

Below is a Facebook post with photos of Stewie shared by Noel’s sister.

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Warwick mayor: It would be impossible to inspect every tree

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — One day after a tree likely damaged in a storm earlier this month crashed down on cars waiting at a stoplight, Eyewitness News asked Mayor Scott Avedisian what can be done to prevent another accident.

“It would be virtually impossible to inspect every tree in the city of Warwick,” the mayor said. The tree that fell Monday was one of many damaged by the Aug. 4 macroburst that took down trees, limbs and utility poles.

Two weeks later, a tree on the corner of West Shore Road and Main Avenue fell onto cars, temporarily trapping four people. The Assistant Fire Chief said it was likely the tree was damaged by the storm. Mayor Avedisian pointed out the tree was on private property.

“We’re not going to go onto private property and demand that trees be removed,” he explained.

Still, Avedisian says Public Works crews are making the rounds, checking the neighborhoods with older tree canopies and areas where the public, especially children, congregate.

“We did some work with the Boys & Girls Club…to see if the trees are safe while kids are playing on the field,” Avedisian said.

Homeowners with precarious trees on their property can call the City of Warwick’s arborist, who will provide a free inspection of trees on the property. The arborist can recommend if any dead limbs or “hangers”–the name for broken limbs tangled in a tree, dangling dangerously–need to be cut down.

Mayor Avedisian says if property owners aren’t taking care of storm-damaged trees, Monday’s scary situation could be repeated.

“I assume we’re going to see more of these accidents where trees are going to magically fall,” he said.

The mayor also answered the question many homeowners have asked about fallen trees that cross property lines–for example, if a city-owned tree falls on your house or lawn. Mayor Avedisian says homeowners need to go through their insurance for damage cleanup, after which the insurance company has the option to go after the city for the money.

The City of Warwick has spent more than $250,000 on tree and debris cleanup from the storm, about $50,000 over the Department of Public Works budget. The Mayor says if federal disaster relief funding comes through, that could cover some of the costs. Residents and businesses would also have the option to apply for federal funding.

 

 
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