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Last-minute Fajardo TD gives Roughriders 31-24 victory over B.C. Lions

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VANCOUVER — A last-minute touchdown by quarterback Cody Fajardo gave the Saskatchewan Roughriders a 31-24 road victory over the B.C. Lions on Friday.

Fajardo scored on a quarterback sneak on third down with two seconds left on the clock, clinching a back-and-forth game between the two sides.

Damon Webb poured salt in the Lions’ wounds, recovering a fumble by B.C. wide receiver Lucky Whitehead and darting into the end zone for a touchdown as time expired.

Fajardo threw for 279 yards, one touchdown and one interception on the night, completing 24-of-31 attempts. Kicker Brett Lauther had four field goals for Saskatchewan, including a 49-yard bomb in the first quarter.

Lions quarterback Michael Reilly had 259 passing yards, and made good on 23-of-34 attempts, including a pair of touchdown passes to Whitehead.

The win gives Saskatchewan (5-2) sole possession of second place in the West Division and snapped a three-game win streak for the Lions (4-3).

The Riders were first on the scoreboard when Lauther made a 38-yard field goal 5:52 into the game.

B.C. was quick to respond. Reilly connected with wide receiver Bryan Burnham on a 28-yard pass on the next play, then followed it with a short toss to Whitehead.

The speedy Florida Atlantic product evaded several Saskatchewan defenders and streaked 47 yards down the sideline for his first touchdown of the night.

Whitehead leads the CFL in receiving this season with 665 yards in seven games.

A solid Lions defence kept the Riders frustrated and pinned in their own territory for much of the first half.

Lauther kept Saskatchewan within striking distance, booting a 49-yard field goal to close out the first quarter and a 28-yard kick early in the second.

Reilly struggled at times to connect with his receivers across the first half.

But with less than a minute to go in the second frame, the veteran QB narrowly avoided a sack, then got a running pass off to Jevon Cottoy for a 26-yard gain. He then sent an 11-yard dish to Whitehead to set up a first-and-goal, then once again found Whitehead in the end zone for B.C.’s second major of the night.

Jimmy Camacho made the converts on both plays and the Lions took a 14-9 lead into halftime.

A 21-yard pass from Fajardo to Kyran Moore put the Riders in good position early in the third, but B.C.’s Jalon Edwards-Cooper spoiled the ensuing touchdown attempt, knocking down a pass before it reached the hands of Mitchell Picton as he waited in the end zone.

Saskatchewan settled for yet another Lauther field goal, this time from 30-yards out.

B.C. responded with a field goal of its own, a 32-yard kick by Camacho.

Saskatchewan caught a big break in the final minutes of the third when Whitehead fumbled a punt return, giving the Riders the ball at the Lions 48-yard line.

Minutes later, Fajardo blasted a 23-yard pass to Ricardo Louis in the end zone, giving the Riders their first touchdown of the night 13:16 into the quarter. Saskatchewan was stymied on the two-point conversion attempt, though, keeping the score 18-17.

The strike was Louis’ first in the CFL. The 27-year-old wide receiver is playing his first season in the league after spending three years with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

Down a point heading into the final frame, the Lions refused to relent.

About four minutes into the quarter, Reilly made an 11-yard run to give his side a first down at Saskatchewan’s 31-yard line. Ed Gainey tripped Burnham in the end zone on the next play and the pass interference created a first-and-goal opportunity for the Lions.

Reilly handed the ball off to Shaq Cooper and the running back snuck across the goal line for the touchdown. B.C. went up 24-18 after Camacho made the convert.

Camacho later missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.

Edwards-Cooper came up big once again with three minutes left in the game, intercepting a long pass from Fajardo along the sidelines, but the Lions couldn’t whether the Riders’ final push.

The Lions will face a tough test on Oct. 1 when they host the league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Saskatchewan will visit the Calgary Stampeders the following night.

NOTES: Saskatchewan defensive back Ed Gainey returned to the lineup after missing two games with an injured toe. … The Lions gave out 10,000 orange shirts with a reimagined logo by Kwakwaka’wakw/Tlingit artist Corrine Hunt to mark the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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Crime

Buffalo suspect: Lonely, isolated — and a sign of trouble

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By Bernard Condon And Michael Hill in Conklin

CONKLIN, N.Y. (AP) — In the waning days of Payton Gendron’s COVID-19-altered senior year at Susquehanna Valley High School, he logged on to a virtual learning program in economics class that asked: “What do you plan to do when you retire?”

“Murder-suicide,” Gendron typed.

Despite his protests that it was all a joke, the bespectacled 17-year-old who had long been viewed by classmates as a smart loner was questioned by state police over the possible threat and then taken into custody and to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation under a state mental health law.

But a day and a half later, he was released. And two weeks after that, he was allowed to participate in graduation festivities, including riding in the senior parade, where he was photographed atop a convertible driven by his father and festooned with yellow-and-blue balloons and signs reading, “Congratulations” and “Payton Gendron.”

That account of Gendron’s brush with the law last spring, according to authorities and other people familiar with what happened, emphasized the same point school officials made in a message to parents at the time: An investigation found no specific, credible threat against the school or any individual from that sign of trouble.

That same young white man bought a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, traveled three hours to Buffalo and went on what authorities say was a racist, livestreamed shooting rampage Saturday in a crowded supermarket that left 10 Black people dead.

Gendron, now 18, was arraigned on a state murder charge over the weekend and a court-appointed public defender entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. He remained jailed under suicide watch as federal prosecutors contemplate hate-crime charges.

Even as the FBI swarmed the comfortable home where Gendron lived with his parents and two younger brothers, neighbors and classmates in this community of 5,000 near the New York-Pennsylvania line say they saw no inkling of the young man now being described on television.

And they say they saw nothing of the kind of racist rhetoric seen in a 180-page online diatribe, purportedly written by Gendron, in which he describes in minute detail how he researched ZIP codes with the highest concentrations of Black people, surveilled the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, and carried out the assault to terrorize all nonwhite, non-Christian people into leaving the country.

Classmates described Gendron as a quiet, studious boy who got high marks but seemed out of place in recent years, turning to online streaming games, a fascination with guns and ways to grab attention from his peers.

When school partially opened again early last year after COVID-19-related shutdowns, Gendron showed up covered head to toe in a hazmat suit. Classmate Matthew Casado said he didn’t think the stunt -– he called it “a harmless joke” — went down well with other students.

“Most people didn’t associate with him,” he said. “They didn’t want to be known as friends with a kid who was socially awkward and nerdy.”

Gendron excelled in sciences, once earning top marks in a state chemistry competition. But he was known for keeping to himself and not talking much. And when he did talk, it was about isolation, rejection and desperation.

“He talked about how he didn’t like school because he didn’t have friends. He would say he was lonely,” said Casado, who graduated with Gendron last year.

At one point last winter, Gendron’s mother called Casado’s mother with a request: Please have Matthew call Payton because he had no friends and needed to talk.

The two boys ended up going to flea markets together, watching YouTube videos and shooting guns on nearby state land over the next few months. Casado said that he had never heard his friend talk of anything violent.

“I didn’t think he would hurt a fly,” he said.

Some neighbors had a similar view, seeing the family as happy and prosperous, with both Paul Gendron and his wife, Pamela, holding stable jobs as civil engineers with the New York state Department of Transportation, earning nearly $200,000 combined, according to online records.

Dozens of their Facebook posts over the years show the parents and their three boys — often dressed in matching outfits — enjoying amusement park vacations, going on boat trips, shooting laser tag guns and opening presents on Christmas morning.

Carl Lobdell, a family friend who first met Gendron on a camping vacation a dozen years ago, said he was shocked that Payton was identified as the suspect in the mass shooting.

“He was very friendly, very respectable,” said Lobdell, adding that his family had grown so close to the Gendrons that they even attended Payton’s graduation party last year. “When I heard about the shooting … I just cried.”

The family did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend, nor did Gendron’s attorney. No one answered the door Monday at the family home, surrounded by a neat, spacious lawn. Near the front door was a tiny right hand pressed in concrete with a heart symbol and the words, “PAYTON 2008.”

One parent of a Susquehanna Valley High student said she was furious that the student who was investigated for making the threat last year — whom she later discovered was Gendron — was still allowed to participate in all graduation activities. The woman asked not to be identified because she feared harassment.

According to a recording of a conference call of federal and local law enforcement officials Monday that was obtained by The Associated Press, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Gendron’s comments he made in school in June 2021 were “generalized statements” and not targeted at anyone in particular or at a specific location, which is why no criminal charges were filed. He said the state police “did everything within the confines of the law.”

Gendron enrolled at Broome County Community College and later dropped out. The school wouldn’t say why. And according to online writings attributed to him, he began planning his assault on the Buffalo supermarket beginning at least in November, saying he was inculcated into his racist views online.

“I was never diagnosed with a mental disability or disorder, and I believe to be perfectly sane,” according to one passage.

A new, 589-page document of online diary postings emerged Monday that authorities have attributed to Gendron, and some of its passages tracked with the account AP’s sources gave of his high school threat investigation.

“Another bad experience was when I had to go to a hospitals ER because I said the word’s ‘murder/suicide’ to an online paper in economics class,” said one entry. “I got out of it because I stuck with the story that I was getting out of class and I just stupidly wrote that down. That is the reason I believe I am still able to purchase guns.”

“It was not a joke, I wrote that down because that’s what I was planning to do.”

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Condon reported from New York. Eric Tucker in Washington, Michael R. Sisak in New York and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed.

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Contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected]

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International

Clinton campaign lawyer sought to ‘use’ FBI, prosecutor says

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By Eric Tucker in Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign who is charged with lying to the FBI early in the Trump-Russia probe sought to “use and manipulate” federal law enforcement to create an “October surprise” in the final weeks of the presidential race, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday at the start of his trial. Defense lawyers told jurors he never lied.

Michael Sussmann is accused of misleading the FBI during a September 2016 meeting by telling the bureau’s top lawyer that he wasn’t acting on behalf of a particular client when he presented computer data that he said might connect Russia to then-candidate Donald Trump. In reality, prosecutors say, he was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign and another client who had provided him with the data.

He lied, prosecutors told the jury, in hopes of generating an “October surprise” of FBI investigations into Trump and negative news coverage of him, and because he knew the FBI would consider the information less credible if it thought it was being presented on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

“He told a lie that was designed to achieve a political end, a lie that was designed to inject the FBI into a presidential election,” said prosecutor Brittain Shaw.

But Sussmann’s lawyers sought to counter each of the prosecution’s allegations, presenting him as a well-respected attorney with deep experience in law enforcement intelligence matters who never lied to the FBI and never would. The fact that he represented Democratic clients was well-known to the FBI and not anything he intended to hide.

“He was someone the FBI knew represented partisan clients,” defense lawyer Michael Bosworth said in his opening statement. ”The FBI knew that he represented the Clinton campaign that summer. The FBI knew that he was an attorney for the DNC, the Democratic Party itself.”

In any event, Bosworth said, it would be impossible for prosecutors to prove that Sussmann had lied because only he and the FBI lawyer he met with, James Baker, were present and neither took notes. Five and a half years after the meeting, Baker’s memory of what was said is “clear as mud,” Bosworth said.

Sussmann’s trial is the first arising from special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the FBI’s original probe into Russian election interference and potential ties with the Trump campaign. Though Durham was thought to be focused at least initially on misconduct by government officials during the course of the Russia investigation, the Sussmann case alleges wrongdoing by a tipster to the FBI rather than the FBI itself.

In an early recognition of the politically loaded nature of the case, Shaw urged jurors to put aside any feelings they might have about Trump, Russia or Clinton.

“Some people have very strong feelings about politics and Russia, and many people have strong feelings about Donald Trump and Russia. But we are not here because these allegations involved either of them, nor are we here because the client was the Hillary Clinton campaign,” Shaw said.

Rather, she added, “We are here because the FBI is our institution. It should not be used as a political tool.”

At issue is a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in which Sussmann presented Baker, the FBI’s then general counsel, with computer data gathered by another of his clients that purported to show furtive contact between computer servers of the Trump Organization and Russia-based Alfa Bank.

That connection, if true, would have been explosive at a time when the FBI was examining whether the Trump campaign and Russia were conspiring to sway the election.

The FBI did investigate the data but found nothing nefarious, and the communication instead reflected what Shaw described as a “spam email server” used to send out marketing.

“The server did not reflect a crime,” Shaw told jurors, “nor was it a threat to national security.”

Bosworth said he took the computer data seriously because it appeared to show “weird contacts” between Trump’s business organization and Russia and because it was given to him by Rodney Joffe, a client who Bosworth said was such a respected technology executive that the FBI had asked him to be an informant.

He said Sussmann had sought out the meeting to give Baker a heads-up that a story about the computer data might be published imminently by The New York Times. Shaw, the prosecutor, had a different take, saying Sussmann had grown frustrated that a reporter he’d been working with had not yet written about the data and wanted to prompt investigations by the FBI that could ensure news media coverage.

But after the meeting, the FBI asked the newspaper to delay publication. That’s the opposite of what the Clinton campaign would have wanted, Bosworth said, suggesting that he wasn’t acting on the campaign’s behalf when he scheduled the meeting.

“The FBI meeting was something that they didn’t authorize, that they didn’t direct him to do, and that they wouldn’t have wanted,” Bosworth said.

Durham was appointed in 2019 by then-Attorney General William Barr to look for any misconduct as the U.S. government was examining potential coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. An investigation by an earlier special counsel, Robert Mueller, did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign though it did find that Russia sought to aid Trump’s election bid.

The Alfa Bank matter was a peripheral part of the FBI’s investigation and the allegations of potentially secretive contact were not even mentioned in Mueller’s 2019 report.

Durham’s work has resulted in three cases. Only the one against Sussmann has reached trial.

In 2020, a former FBI lawyer named Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to altering an email related to FBI surveillance of an ex-Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. In applying for warrants to eavesdrop on Page, the FBI relied on research files of anti-Trump information known colloquially as the “Steele dossier” that contained rumors and uncorroborated claims.

Last year, Durham charged a Russia analyst who was a source for that dossier with lying to the FBI about his own sources of information — among them, a longtime Hillary Clinton supporter. Igor Danchenko has pleaded not guilty.

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Follow Eric Tucker on http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP.

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