REPORT: UCONN PLAYERS STARTED FIGHT THAT LED TO KILLING

After nearly a month of heart-wrenching tributes, candlelight vigils and outpouring of emotion both here and across the country comes a troubling report that alleges that two University of Connecticut football players started the fight that lead to the death of teammate Jasper Howard October 18. The Hartford Courant ran a front-page “above-the-fold” report Sunday that said freshman players Brian Parker and A.J. Portee were “the aggressors” in the fight with three Bloomfield men. The report also said that the pulling of the fire alarm that sent people scattering outside the student union building where the dance was being held was completely unconnected to the fight. As the people filed out, the paper quoted sources as saying two of the three non-students from Bloomfield went to their car and armed themselves with knives. The fight continued and ended with Howard stabbed to death. John Lomax III is charged with murder. Johnny Hood and Hakim Muhammad face lesser charges.

Anyone who has been following this story must have expected more details to surface—details that may be unpleasant or reflect negatively on the university or its athletes. There are sure to be those who will challenge the veracity of the Courant report, largely because it is based on unnamed sources. After all, no law enforcement entity or official has suggested publicly that UConn players started the fight. However, it is worth noting that the reporters on the story, Dave Altimari, Christine Dempsey and David Owen, all have stellar reputations and rock solid credibility as reporters. Altimari is particularly well known for his accurate, investigative reporting.

The real question is, what happens from here? Coach Randy Edsall has been poignant and courageous in his handling of the situation from being bedside all night with Howard before he died, to handling the unimaginable grief among his players. He is now faced with the accusation that his players started the unpleasantness that eventually resulted in Howard’s killing. Edsall will presumably wait for the official investigation to conclude before taking any action. But this latest revelation must hang heavy on him as he struggles to complete the season and move his team passed the tragedy.

It goes without saying that the two teammates now accused of starting the altercation didn’t for a moment think it could ever result in the murder of one of their teammates—but that’s exactly what happened. There need not be intent for one to be held responsible for the results of one’s actions. It remains to be seen if the players will face criminal charges from this whole tragic set of events. No matter how you look at it, a young has been lost and others have been ruined.
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Governor Rell has been saying all along she would let the people of the state know whether she will seek another term following the municipal elections. Well, they’ve come and gone and now the governor says she will make the announcement by the end of the month.

If she does run again, a full explanation of Dautrich-gate should be priority one. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has issued at least one subpoena for documents in the investigation of whether a UConn professor used a taxpayer-funded study of state government efficiency to also clandestinely provide political advice to Gov. Rell. More subpoenas are expected. E-mails that have surfaced since the story broke contradict almost all of the governor’s explanations to date. So much so, that Democratic State Party Chairwoman, Nancy DiNardo, again Sunday characterized the governor as “lying.”

As far as the governor deliberating over whether to run again, the media would be well-advised to dispense with the questions about whether Ned Lamont entering the picture would influence her one way or the other. Some political obrservers see Lamont was a one-trick-Iraqi-pony in his challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2006; when he ultimately couldn’t close the deal in the general election. Nothing he has said or done since then suggests he can even revive the left of the political spectrum support he got then. What he does have going for him is a fleet of armored trucks filled his cash. But to utilize that, he would have to opt out of public financing—a system he once championed—which could lead to charge of hypocrisy. Either way, the governor doesn’t care.
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While Democrats in Congress and here in Connecticut are all but burning him in effigy, Sen. Joe Lieberman is doing national TV appearances, commenting on the bloodshed at Fort Hood last week. Lieberman has said he will oppose a health care reform plan that includes any public option and then compounded that by saying he would likely campaign for some Republican candidates in the next year. It would be only mildly surprising if the next time Lieberman came home to hold one of his famous “diner” forums, he arrived in a car with a big, mechanical middle finger on the roof, rotating for all Nutmeggers to see.