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Fotis Dulos' alleged suicide note leaves questions about his estranged wife's disappearance

No Comments National News

iStock(FARMINGTON, Conn.) — Before Fotis Dulos took his own life by inhaling poisonous carbon monoxide inside his Farmington, Connecticut, home, he allegedly wrote a suicide note proclaiming his innocence and that of everyone charged in connection with his estranged wife’s disappearance.

Amid a bitter divorce and custody battle in May 2019, Jennifer Dulos mysteriously disappeared. Fotis Dulos and his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis were arrested weeks later, charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and hindering prosecution.

On Jan. 7, Connecticut State Police charged Fotis Dulos with felony murder, kidnapping and murder. Troconis, 44, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

But Fotis Dulos’ allegedly handwritten suicide note, obtained by ABC News from a source — which he addressed to “all” — was littered with self-serving statements to clear his and Troconis’ names.

“I refuse to spend even an hour more in jail for something I had NOTHING to do with,” he allegedly wrote with blue ink on a notebook-sized single sheet of paper. “I want it to be known that Michelle Troconis had nothing to do with Jennifer’s disappearance. And neither did Kent Mawhinney.”

Mahwinney, an attorney and a friend of Fotis Dulos, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Fotis Dulos was allegedly seen on surveillance video throwing out 30 garbage bags in multiple receptacles, according to a police report. Items in the bags included clothes belonging to Jennifer Dulos and plastic zip ties that later tested positive for her DNA, according to the arrest warrant.

“My attorney can explain what happened with the bag on Albany Avenue. Everything else is a story fabricated by the law enforcement,” Fotis Dulos allegedly wrote.

Regarding the bags, Fotis Dulos’ attorney, Norm Pattis told the Stamford Advocate in July 2019 that “there’s an explanation, but we’re not going to give it.”

Fotis Dulos was expected in court on Tuesday for a bail hearing and when he didn’t show up, police did a wellness check at his house. Police saw Fotis Dulos through a window sitting in his car in the garage.

He died two days later. Fotis Dulos was 51.

Pattis said at a press conference after his client was declared dead, that he’s filing an “unusual motion” with the court to ask them to continue to prosecute Fotis Dulos as an estate.

“To force the state to show its hand in a trial filled with evidence we think amounts to no more than innuendo and unsupported suspicion,” said Pattis.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] – for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it – you are not alone.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kobe Bryant honored at memorial by his Philadelphia-area high school

No Comments Sports News

iStock(PHILADELPHIA) — Kobe Bryant was honored Saturday at his former high school in a packed gymnasium, nearly a week after his shocking death.

Around 1,600 people, including Bryant’s cousin and former high school teammates, showed up for the tribute at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium.

Kevin Grugan, one of the NBA legend’s high school teammates, who is now the assistant coach for the school’s boys basketball team, thanked those who have shown an “outpouring of love and support.”

Grugan also announced that Bryant’s legacy would be commemorated in the gym, with his high-school jersey framed on a wall.

“We will welcome Kobe home in a small way,” Grugan said. “As the jersey that belongs here is finally here.”

A video montage of Bryant’s life and career was also played, including a final image of him smiling court-side with his arm wrapped around his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. The two were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

The other victims were identified as college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli, their daughter Alyssa Altobelli, basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, her daughter Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan.

The tribute took place between the varsity girls and varsity boys basketball games.

Bryant graduated from Lower Merion, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in 1996 and went straight to the NBA.

Gregg Downer, who was Bryant’s coach throughout high school, was in attendance at the ceremony but did not publicly speak. Bryant’s cousin, John Cox, who plays French professional basketball, also attended the ceremony but did not publicly speak.

“Aces Nation has lost its heartbeat,” Downer said in an earlier statement, referring to the school’s nickname for its basketball team.

The high school memorial is among the countless that have poured in since his death. On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the court for their first game since the tragedy. Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers.

“Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the last three years,” James said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

South Carolina rep amends bill to require GPS trackers for domestic violence defendants who make bail

No Comments National News

iStock(NEW YORK) — A South Carolina state representative amended a bill that would require alleged domestic violence offenders to wear a GPS monitoring device if the defendant is allowed to be released on bail.

The original H. 3708 bill, which was introduced in January 2019, only mentioned that judges could consider “in lieu of setting bond or as an additional condition of release on bond” that alleged “violent offenders” should be “on surveillance via an active electronic monitoring device.”

Rep. William Bailey sponsored the bill and amended it on Wednesday to included alleged domestic violence offenders.

The idea is to keep the victim of the alleged offender “notified at all times of the person’s immediate location,” the bill reads.

The bill also provides procedures for monitoring the device and includes penalties for tampering with it.

The cost for the tracking devices is expected to be paid for by “the appropriate law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the offense.”

Twenty three states have already passed GPS monitoring domestic violence/stalking laws, according to The Cynthia L. Bischof Foundation — an organization dedicated to providing resources for victims of domestic violence and to advocate for these types of laws for states.

South Carolina joins 10 other states that are in primary stages of getting this bill passed into law.

The governor, Henry McMaster, has to approve the act.

Requests for comment from McMaster and Bailey were not immediately received.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Storm bringing heavy rain to Northwest, snow to impact Cascades

No Comments National News

iStock(MIAMI) — A strong frontal system brought severe weather to southern Florida on Friday night, with numerous reports of flooding, lightning and gusty winds in the Miami metro area, as well as parts of the Florida Keys. A wind gust of over 50 mph was reported offshore of Islamorada, and flooded roadways were reported in Miami Beach.

The severe weather threat is not over yet for southern Florida — storms will fire up again today as the front tries to clear the area, and damaging winds, hail, and brief tornadoes will all be possible in southern Florida later today.

Additionally, any severe storm may cause flash flooding and have a significant amount of lightning.

The good news is that the frontal system will clear Florida and the East Coast Saturday night, and a cooler, but sunny day is ahead for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

A strong storm is currently moving onshore to the western U.S. and impacts from an atmospheric river are impacting parts of Washington State this morning. Heavy rain is adding to already saturated grounds in northwest Washington, where some spots have seen one of their wettest Januarys on record.

More than 30,000 people are reported to be without power in Washington State, from gusty winds over 50 mph.

Additional rain on Saturday will bring the risk for river flooding and landslides through the weekend.

After a pretty quiet week of weather, this storm will move into the Rockies, before a part of this system travels across the rest of the country. First today, more heavy rain will move onshore to the Pacific Northwest.

Then on Sunday and Monday, snow will move into the mountains. However, the most impactful concern will be the strong gusty winds along the cold front in California, where wind alerts have been issued for much of the state. Gusts, especially on Sunday night into Monday in Southern California, could reach 70 mph in some of the higher elevations. This could bring downed trees and power lines in the region.

Then late on Monday, the snow will become more organized in the Rockies in Colorado and Wyoming.

Locally an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected in the Pacific Northwest through the weekend, and 1-2 feet of snow in parts of the Cascades and Rockies through Tuesday.

A part of this storm will move into the central and eastern U.S. during the week, and will bring several impacts – including the potential for a multi-day severe weather event.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Racism in soccer is an 'epidemic' that mirrors disturbing trends in Europe: Advocates

No Comments Sports News

iStock(LONDON) — Late last month, in the 63rd minute of one of the highest profile games on the English soccer calendar between Chelsea and Tottenham, officials were forced to stop play.

It wasn’t a yellow card or even a red card.

Racism had apparently reared its ugly head once again — a scourge that has been resurfacing in a number of professional sports in recent years.

Antonio Rudiger, a black Chelsea defender, was seen complaining to the referee, with a gesture putting his hands under his armpits, to indicate that he believed he had been subjected to racist monkey chants from rival Tottenham supporters. The referee, Anthony Taylor, used a new protocol from UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, to stop play. The new protocol, introduced in October 2019, allows for the referee to abandon the match if racist behavior continues after two warnings, issued by a stadium announcer.

Three stadium announcements saying that “racist behavior among supporters is interfering with the game” followed in the remaining half hour, a surreal, confusing and sad spectacle for soccer fans watching on television and in the stands.

“It is really sad to see racism again at a football match, but I think it’s very important to talk about it in public,” Rudiger posted on Twitter after the incident. “If not, it will be forgotten again in a couple of days (as always)… When will this nonsense stop?”

Eventually, Tottenham and the police said they could find no evidence that Rudiger had been subjected to the taunts — although a Chelsea fan was arrested for racially abusing a Tottenham player, Son-Heung-Min. Chelsea has not commented.

The incident closed out a year in which levels of racism in European soccer, described by anti-racism advocates as an “epidemic,” reached new heights.

If this was the first time the new protocol had been used, it certainly does not look like it will be the last. Over the course of the 2018-19 season, which ran from September to July, England’s anti-racism and pro-inclusion group for the sport, Kick It Out, released statistics saying that reports of discrimination, on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, religion and race, had increased by 32% from the previous season — from 319 to 422.

Racist incidents constituted 65% of those reports, the data shows.

The problem has not just been racist abuse directed at players. Alongside racist incidents, anti-racism charities have long criticized soccer’s governing bodies for limp responses to these incidents and weak punishments, paying lip service to problems without showing leadership in stamping them out. Both FIFA (the world’s soccer governing body) and UEFA have pushed back on those assertions, blaming the rise of nationalism and reaffirming their commitment to fighting racism.

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches,” the organization said in a statement in October.

Among the highest-profile incidents was a match between England and Bulgaria in October, which saw Bulgaria fans’ allegedly directing Nazi salutes and monkey chants at England’s black players, forcing the game to stop twice. Bulgaria was already halfway through a partial stadium ban for previous racist incidents, which saw 5,000 fans blocked from entering a 46,000-seat stadium in October.

Kick It Out issued a statement saying it was “sickened” by the incident, and that serious action was needed in order to tackle discrimination in the game.

After the match, the president of the Bulgaria Football Union resigned “as a consequence” of the “tensions” surrounding the match, although the organization did not specifically mention racism in its statement.

UEFA fined the Bulgarian soccer association $83,000, and hit the team with a two-game stadium closure, meaning no fans were allowed inside the stadium during the game.

Iffy Onuora, the equalities coach for the Professional Footballers’ Association, the trade union for soccer players in England and Wales, told ABC News that that match, given what he described as Bulgarian soccer’s history of racism, was a “seminal moment in recent years.”

“How did that happen when it was widely anticipated?” he said. “I think the profile of the game, an England international involving the very best players in the country, I think that’s when it really threw everything into sharper focus.”

Perhaps the best example on the European continent of the failure of institutions to tackle the problem was in fact an anti-racism campaign in Italy, considered by many to be historically one of the worst offenders.

The “No-to-Racism” posters, officially sanctioned by Serie A — Italy’s top soccer league — featured images of monkeys’ faces and were displayed at the Serie A headquarters in Milan in December at a presentation. Serie A eventually apologized after a public backlash, as just a month earlier the Italian striker Mario Balotelli was left visibly distraught on the field after being subjected to monkey chants in a match against Hellas Verona.

Christos Kassimeris, a professor of political science at the European University Cyprus, who is authoring an upcoming book entitled “Discrimination in Football: isms and phobias,” told ABC News that the incident “speaks volumes of the kind of ignorance that best describes many” across the continent.

“Simply put, acknowledging that racism in football exists is certainly not enough to either support football players or equip them with the necessary tools that would enable them to make a difference,” Kassimeris said.

Piara Power, the executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, an anti-racism umbrella group that includes supporters’ groups and NGOs, told ABC News that the Italian example was particularly bad, although some of the problems are common across the continent.

“There’s no question that mimicry is part of this — people see it happening in one part of Europe and think that’s a good thing to do,” Power said. “That reflects the demographic of individuals involved, often young men who will follow and copy each other.”

Yet soccer, by far the world’s most played and watched sport, does not exist in a bubble. Indeed, the first point many anti-racism campaigners point to in discussing the issue is the political developments that have emerged in Europe since around 2015. The “epidemic” of racism is impossible to understand without grasping the continent’s shifting politics, according to Power.

“People are now saying things that perhaps even five years ago they would have hesitated to say in a public space,” he told ABC News. “Across Eastern Europe you can look at Hungary, Poland, Slovakia — where populist governments have a far right agenda. They are often using language of intolerance, scapegoating minority communities. A lot of this is spilling over into football.”

Onuoura, who is black and whose playing career spanned the entire 1990s in the lower divisions of English soccer, is as well placed as any to have observed how the game has changed. Black players came to prominence in the U.K. in the 1970s, and racism was widespread in the game, which continued into the next decade, he said, but his days as a professional were “a period of calm.”

“The direction … was definitely to more tolerance, more inclusion, to try and improve situations for minority people in this country,” he told ABC News. “I’m not sure that direction has carried on in the same way. If you accept it or don’t accept it, what you can say with a reasonable degree of certainty is football is a reflection of society. Football doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”

The political climate, as well as the “perfect storm” of social media allowing fans to anonymously abuse players, has spilled out into modern soccer, Onuoura said. Several high-profile players and coaches have called on social media companies to do more to stamp out racist abuse online.

“The game of football mirrors society at large,” Kassimeris said. “With the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, comparing women in burkas to ‘letterboxes,’ or the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, often expressing his xenophobic views, racism in European politics is reaching unparalleled heights.”

Johnson refused to apologize for his remark, calling it a “strong liberal defense … of everybody’s right to wear whatever he wants in this country.” Orban, meanwhile, has rejected the criticism that he is racist, which came from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Indeed, it was frustration with how much of the tabloid press treated black soccer players in the U.K. that appears to have sparked another watershed moment in how racism in soccer is perceived — the closest the game has come to a “Colin Kaepernick” moment.

Manchester City player Raheem Sterling, who is black, issued a statement on Instagram; Sterling, who has regularly been targeted on the field, and criticized by the media, called out the tabloid media’s coverage of two young soccer players buying houses for their mothers — one black, and one white.

His teammate Tosin Adarabioyo, who is black, was criticized in reports in the MailOnline for buying a house for this mom, while white teammate Phil Foden also bought a lavish house for his mother but did not appear to receive the same criticism. Sterling himself had been criticized for buying a house for his mom by the MailOnline in 2017, with the headline “£180,000-a-week England flop Raheem shows off blinging house he bought for his mum — complete with jewel-encrusted bathroom — hours after flying home in disgrace from Euro 2016.”

“This young black kid is looked at in a bad light,” Sterling’s statement read. “Which helps fuel racism an[d] aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers [sic] that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity an[d] give all players an equal chance.”

The reporter on the story denied that the piece was about race and tweeted “it didn’t even cross my mind.”

“We are now seeing a cohort of players who feel like they have the agency and capability to challenge racism in ways that haven’t been done before,” Daniel Burdsey, a sociologist at the University of Brighton who researches racism in sport and society, told ABC News.

As of November last year, there were only six Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) managers out of the 72 teams in the top four divisions of English soccer. In a report released last year the FA, U.K. soccer’s governing body, found that only people from BAME backgrounds make up only 6% of “leadership roles” in the sport in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, only 4% of referees identify as BAME, according to U.K.’s soccer governing body.

“We hear racism being shouted on the terraces, but it also happens when a black official walks up to a boardroom [of a soccer club], but doesn’t get recognized as an official, because the person upstairs doesn’t recognize him and … I’ve experienced some of that myself,” Onuoura told ABC News. “There’s the culture of ‘black players play,’ and non-black players coach, manage, lead and are senior management in the company.”

The U.K.’s governing institutions have implemented the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule,’ whereby clubs must interview at least one BAME candidate for management positions, but the problem, for campaigners inside the game, goes far wider than that, and the solutions are far from clear.

“Football can do better,” Onuoura said. “[But] we’ve allowed the narrowing of opinion, the shutting down of opinion, this intolerance to seep into our culture over the last 8-10 years … and it might take another 8-10 years to turn that the other way.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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