TIME

Tropical Storm Erika Weakens

Dominica goverment orders suspencion of activities due to tropical Storm Erika
Robert Tomge—EPA General view after the passage of Tropical Storm Erika in the Eastern Caribbean in Roseau, Dominica on Aug. 28, 2015.

Tropical Storm Erika dissipated after killing at least 20 people on the Caribbean island of Dominica

(HAVANA) — Tropical Storm Erika dissipated early Saturday, even as its remnants began drenching parts of eastern Cuba. But it left devastation in its path, killing at least 20 people and leaving nearly 50 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, authorities said.

In Haiti, one person died in a mudslide just north of Port-au-Prince, and at least four others were killed in a traffic accident that apparently occurred in the rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm had degenerated into a trough of low pressure by early Saturday after mountains and an unfavorable environment in Hispaniola knocked Erika below tropical storm force.

The eastern Cuban city of Santiago was hit by about two hours of heavy rain as the storm was falling apart Saturday morning. Residents reported no flooding or other damage, saying they wished it would rain more to help alleviate a months-long drought that has hit eastern Cuba particularly hard.

“It’s a little cloudy, there’s some wind, but not very strong. But I wish it would keep raining to fill up the reservoirs, because we really need it,” said Jorge Barrera, a 56-year-old mechanical engineer.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address late Friday that damage inflicted by the storm set that island back 20 years. Some 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain fell on the mountainous island.

“The extent of the devastation is monumental. It is far worse than expected,” he said, adding that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads have been destroyed. “We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica.”

Nearly 50 people have been reported missing in Dominica, and that number is expected to rise, opposition leader Lennox Linton said after leaving a meeting with the prime minister and other politicians. The island’s airports remained closed, and some communities were still isolated by flooding and landslides.

On Friday evening, Skerrit asked people to share their resources with each other as foreign aid trickled in.

“This is a period of national tragedy,” he said. “Floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognizable.”

Before dissipating, Erika also knocked out power to more than 200,000 people in Puerto Rico and caused more than $16 million in damage to crops there, including plantains, bananas and coffee.

In Haiti, authorities evacuated 254 prisoners in Gonaives to other locations because of flooding, and two people were hospitalized after their home in Port-au-Prince collapsed in heavy rains.

Four people died and another 11 were hospitalized in Leogane, just west of the Haitian capital, when a truck carrying a liquor known locally as clairin crashed into a bus and exploded. Authorities said it apparently was raining when the accident occurred.

While the storm was stumbling over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at the center, warned that people in Florida should still brace for heavy rain, said “This is a potentially heavy rain event for a large part of the state,” he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier declared a state of emergency for the entire state and officials urged residents to fill gas tanks and stockpile food and water.

Erika was a particularly wet storm, and moved across a region that has been struggling with drought.

Given how dry Puerto Rico and parts of Florida have been, “it could be a net benefit, this thing,” said MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel.

At 9:30 EDT Saturday, the remnants of Erika were located about 130 miles (205 kilometers) east of Camaguey, Cuba, and were moving west-northwest near 22 mph (35 kph) in a general motion expected to continue into the evening, the Hurricane Center said. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph (55 kph).

The Hurricane Center said Erika’s remnants were expected to move near the coast of eastern and central Cuba on Saturday and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. It cancelled future public advisories.

Still, the remnants of Erika were expected to produce rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2 centimeters) with maximum amounts of 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) possible across parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and eastern and central Cuba through Sundays, the Hurricane Center said.

It added that the rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. It starting on Sunday, rainfall of 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters), with locally heavier amounts, is possible across southern and central Florida. Gusty winds could occur over southern Florida beginning Sunday.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Jimena turned into a powerful Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 150 mph (240 kph). The Hurricane Center said it was expected to remain a major hurricane through Monday, though it did not pose an immediate threat to land.

___

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP writers Carlisle Jno Baptiste in Roseau, Dominica, Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Ben Fox in Miami and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida contributed to this report.

TIME Illinois

Illinois Says It Can’t Pay Big Lottery Winners

Michael Jones
M. Spencer Green—AP Illinois Lottery Mega Millions lottery ticket.

Why you need to win small in the Prairie State

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) — Big-time Illinois Lottery winners aren’t getting the largesse. They’re getting left out.

Without a state budget agreement two months into the new fiscal year, there’s no authority for the state comptroller to cut checks over $25,000. That means smaller winnings can be paid out, but not the larger lottery wins.

Susan Rick, who lives in Oglesby, Illinois, planned home fix-ups and a visit to her daughter after her boyfriend won $250,000 last month. But they were told to wait.

Rick tells the Chicago Tribune that if the situation were reversed, the state would “come take it, and they don’t care whether we have a roof over our head.”

Lottery spokesman Steve Rossi says state lottery, like every other state agency, is “affected by the budget situation.”

TIME Turkey

Turkey Launches First Coalition Airstrikes Against ISIS

A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at Incirlik air base in Adana, Turkey
Murad Sezer—Reuters A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at Incirlik air base in Adana, Turkey on Aug. 11, 2015.

Turkey came to a decision to actively participate in efforts against ISIS after months of hesitation

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey announced Saturday that its fighter jets have carried out their first airstrikes as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the jets began attacking IS targets late Friday across the border in Syria that were deemed to be threats to Turkey.

After months of hesitance, Turkey agreed last month to take on a more active role in the fight against IS. Turkish jets used smart bombs to attack IS positions in Syria, without crossing into Syrian airspace and later Turkey granted U.S. jets access to a key air base close to the Syrian border.

The Turkish attacks that began Friday were the first launched as part of the U.S.-led campaign and came after Turkish and U.S. officials announced they had reached a technical agreement concerning their cooperation, which calls for Turkey to be fully integrated into the coalition air campaign.

“Our fighter aircraft together with warplanes belonging to the coalition began as of yesterday evening to jointly carry out air operations against Daesh targets that constitute a threat against the security of our country,” the Foreign Ministry said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “The fight against the terrorist organization is a priority for Turkey.”

The statement did not give more details on the targets.

On Thursday, IS militants seized five villages from rebel groups in northern Syria as they advanced toward the strategic town of Marea near the Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other groups said IS carried out a suicide bombing on the outskirts of Marea amid fierce fighting in the area.

The IS advance was in the northern Aleppo province near where Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish an IS-free safe zone.

TIME Crime

Houston Sheriff’s Deputy Killed in Gas Station Ambush

"Cops' lives matter, too," said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman

(HOUSTON) — Authorities on Saturday had yet to find the suspect in what they’re calling the “cold-blooded assassination” of a uniformed sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot while filling up his patrol car at a suburban Houston gas station.

The death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth prompted pleas for the public’s help in finding the shooter and also strong statements from about the recent climate of tension between civilians, law enforcement and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“Our system of justice absolutely requires a law enforcement presence to protect our community,” Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said at a news conference. “So at any point when the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happens, this rhetoric has gotten out of control.

“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we drop the qualifier and say lives matter.”

Goforth, 47, was pumping gas about 8:30 p.m. Friday when a man approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground. Hickman said surveillance video shows there were people at the gas station and asked that they reach out with any information that could lead to the suspect.

Police have described the suspect as a male with a dark complexion, about 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts. Authorities did not say what race they believe him to be.

Earlier Saturday, Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said officials were questioning a person of interest and had a search warrant for a two-story brick home. Hickman said authorities were looking at a red pickup truck at the house, which is about a quarter-mile from the gas station, due to the description of the suspect driving a red or maroon truck with an extended cab.

Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the force, had a wife and two children, Hickman said. As for a motive, Hickman said that until anything is known with “certainty … it’s all speculation” but later suggested that Goforth was targeted because he was in law enforcement.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson called on what she described as “the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement.”

“There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement,” she said.

In a statement Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott said “heinous and deliberate crimes against law enforcement will not be tolerated” and that the state “reveres the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities.”

The deputy had gone to the Chevron gas station in Cypress, a middle-class to upper middle-class suburban area of Harris County that is unincorporated and located northwest of Houston, after responding to a routine car accident earlier Friday.

An impromptu memorial sprouted at the pump he had used Friday night, with a pile of balloons, flowers, candles and notes, including one that said, “Gone but never forgotten R.I.P. Deputy Goforth.” The gas station was open Saturday, but that pump was closed.

Brian McCullar knew Goforth because the deputy had patrolled his neighborhood, which is about two miles from the gas station, and the two spoke often.

“He was passionate about what he did,” the 49-year-old said, adding, “We’re still in shock. … It’s a huge loss for his family. It’s a huge loss for this area.

“You’re talking about a guy that made a difference,” McCullar said.

Detectives were checking security camera video for possible clues. The search for the suspect includes Harris County sheriff’s deputies and homicide investigators and officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Sentences 3 Al-Jazeera Reporters to 3 Years in Prison

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt
Amr Nabil—AP Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy, listens to his verdict in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom in Tora prison in Cairo on Aug. 29, 2015.

Al-Jazeera English's acting director-general said the verdict "'defies logic and common sense"

(CAIRO) — An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison, the latest twist in a long-running trial criticized worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.

The case against Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed embroiled their journalism into the wider conflict between Egypt and Qatar following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the sentence would affect the three men. Greste, earlier deported in February, spoke to Al-Jazeera from Sydney and said he believed an Egyptian appeals court would overturn the verdict. Fahmy and Mohammed, both on hand for Saturday’s hearing were immediately taken away by police after the hearing.

Mostefa Souag, Al-Jazeera English acting director-general, also criticized the verdict, saying it “‘defies logic and common sense.”

“The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner,” Souag said in a statement. “There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organizations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny.”

Judge Hassan Farid, in his ruling, said he sentenced the men to prison because they had not registered with the country’s journalist syndicate. He also said the men brought in equipment without security officials’ approval, had broadcast “false news” on Al-Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission.

Immediately after the ruling, Fahmy’s wife, Marwa, began crying. Others loudly sobbed.

“The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt,” said human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represented Fahmy. “It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news. And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda.”

The case began in December 2013, when Egyptian security forces raided the upscale hotel suite used by Al-Jazeera at the time to report from Egypt. Authorities arrested Fahmy, Greste and Mohammed, later charging them with allegedly being part of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organization, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has cracked down heavily on his supporters, and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera and the journalists have denied the allegations, saying they were simply reporting the news. However, Doha has been a strong supporter of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the greater Mideast.

At trial, prosecutors used news clips about an animal hospital with donkeys and horses, and another about Christian life in Egypt, as evidence they broke the law. Defense lawyers — and even the judge — dismissed the videos as irrelevant.

Nonetheless, the three men were convicted on June 23, 2014, with Greste and Fahmy sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years for being found with a spent bullet casing. On Saturday, Mohammed received an additional six months for being in possession of a “bullet,” according to the full text of the court decision carried by the Egyptian state news agency MENA. It wasn’t immediately clear why Saturday’s verdict referred to a “bullet,” rather than a spent bullet casing.

The verdict brought a landslide of international condemnation and calls for newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who as military chief led the overthrow of Morsi, to intervene. Egypt’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appeals court, later ordered their retrial, saying the initial proceedings were marred by violations of the defendants’ rights.

Egypt deported Greste in February, though he remained charged in the case. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

Fahmy was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality by Egyptian officials in order to qualify for deportation. It’s not clear why he wasn’t deported, though Fahmy said he thinks Canada could have pressed Cairo harder on the matter.

Angered by Al-Jazeera handling of the case, Fahmy has filed a lawsuit in Canada seeking $100 million from the broadcaster, saying that it put the story ahead of employee safety and used its Arabic-language channels to advocate for the Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera has said Fahmy should seek compensation from Egypt.

TIME Thailand

Police Arrest Foreigner in Bangkok Shrine Bombing

The man was arrested Saturday in Nong Jok on the outskirts of the capital

(BANGKOK) — Thai authorities arrested a foreign man Saturday they said had been holed up in a suburban apartment with bomb-making equipment and stacks of passports, the first possible breakthrough in the deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine nearly two weeks ago.

All television channels broadcast a televised announcement Saturday evening on the suspect’s arrest, which came 12 days after the bombing that authorities have called the deadliest attack in Thailand’s modern history.

Police and soldiers raided the apartment in an eastern Bangkok suburb and found bomb-making materials that matched those used in the Aug. 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok, national police spokesman Prawuth Thavornsiri said in the televised statement.

The blast which killed 20 people and injured more than 120 was followed a day later by another explosion at a public ferry pier, which caused no injuries but exacerbated concerns about safety in the Thai capital, which draws millions of tourists.

“Our preliminary investigation shows that he is related to both bombings,” Prawuth said, as he showed photographs of what police seized, including detonators, ball bearings and a metal pipe that police believe was intended to hold a bomb.

Police chief Somyot Poompanmoung later told reporters that “the bomb materials are the same, similar or the same type” as those used in both bombings.

Police also found “a number of passports from one country,” Prawuth said. He did not name the country but photographs shown during the broadcast showed stacks of passports that appeared to be Turkish.

Earlier, Prawuth said that authorities had not yet determined his nationality and dismissed Thai news reports saying he is Turkish. Images of a Turkish passport with the apparent suspect’s picture were posted on social media.

“The passport you see is fake,” said Prawuth, referring to the online photos. “We don’t know if he is Turkish or not.”

A photograph of the suspect showed a young man with short brown hair and a light beard and mustache.

Asked what could be the motive for the bombing, the police chief told reporters, “it’s a personal grudge .. not international terrorism.” He did not elaborate or give a clear explanation.

Somyot said the suspect had traveled in and out of the country since January 2014.

The blast at the Erawan Shrine was unprecedented in the Thai capital, where smaller bombs have been employed in domestic political violence over the past decade, but not in an effort to cause large-scale casualties.

The shrine is a popular tourist destination, particularly with Chinese visitors, who are an important segment of the lucrative tourist market. At least six of the dead were from China and Hong Kong. It sits on the corner of a busy traffic intersection with a nearby overhead walkway in a neighborhood full of upscale shopping malls and five-star hotels.

Soon after the bombing, police released an artist’s sketch of a man seen in a security camera video leaving a backpack at a bench then walking away from the open-air shrine. A separate camera showed the man, wearing a yellow T-shirt, on the back of a motorcycle taxi leaving the site.

The man seen in the video was believed to have carried out the bombing, which police said was likely planned by a group of people. They indicated in Saturday’s news conference that the man arrested was not the bomber seen in the video.

“We believe he is a culprit in the same network. More details will be given later,” Prawuth said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, sparking a variety of theories into who might be behind it.

Possible suspects include parties seeking to avenge Thailand’s forced repatriation of ethnic Uighurs to China. Uighurs are related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a large Uighur community.

Other theories included Muslim separatists from southern Thailand, opponents of Thailand’s military government and feuding factions within the security services.

Police have been criticized for releasing conflicting statements and rapidly hosing down the crime scene at the shrine before all forensic evidence was recovered. Many accused authorities of rushing to clean up the bomb scene to reassure the public — especially foreign tourists — that security in the city was back to normal.

Police say they have been handicapped by low-quality and broken surveillance cameras and a lack of sophisticated image-processing equipment to clarify the fuzzy images in security videos, which were the only firm evidence they had.

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Associated Press journalist Papitchaya Boonngok contributed to this report.

Read next: Greece Appoints Its First Female Prime Minister

TIME Kentucky

Kentucky Clerk Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in Gay Marriage License Case

Kim Davis
Timothy D. Easley—AP Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis speaks to a gathering of supporters during a Religious Freedoms Rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Ky. on Aug. 22, 2015.

Kim Davis pleads for "asylum for her conscience" as she denies marriage licenses to gay couples for religious reasons

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — Two months after it legalized gay marriage nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked by a Kentucky county clerk for permission to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons. The Supreme Court says the constitution guarantees gay people have the right to marry, but Davis contends the First Amendment guarantees her the right of religious freedom.

She stopped issuing all marriage licenses the day after the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide in June.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued Davis, arguing she must fulfill her duties as an elected official. A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses and an appeals court upheld that decision. Davis’ lawyers said they petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday to delay that decision until her appeal is finished, a process that could take months.

Her attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel wrote in their appeal to the court that Davis is seeking “asylum for her conscience.”

Justice Elena Kagan, who joined the majority opinion effectively legalized gay marriage in the U.S., will hear Davis’ case.

University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson said he believes Kagan will deny Davis’ request based on the court’s earlier decision.

Davis has refused to comply with several court orders in recent weeks, turning away gay couples over and over. She says they could easily drive to a nearby county to get a marriage license. But gay couples argue they have a right to get a marriage license in the county where they live, work and pay taxes.

Davis has said she will not resign her $80,000-a-year job and will never issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — even if the Supreme Court denies her request.

“If a (same-sex marriage) license is issued with Davis’ name, authorization and approval, no one can unring that bell,” she wrote the court. “That searing act of validation would forever echo in her conscience.”

Her attorney, Jonathan D. Christman, wrote that forcing her to issue licenses is akin to forcing a person who objects to war into the battlefield, or forcing a person against capital punishment to carry out an execution.

Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers share her beliefs. The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis.

The gay couples that sued her could ask U.S. District Judge David Bunning to hold Davis in contempt. That would trigger another court hearing and would likely include testimony from Davis herself. The judge could then order hefty fines or even put her in jail until she complies with the order.

TIME Foreign Policy

President Obama Compares U.S. and Israel Tensions to Family Feud

Obama Speaks Iran Nuclear Deal
Pete Marovich—AP United States President Barack Obama addresses American University's School of International Service in Washington on Aug. 5, 2015.

"Like all families, sometimes there are going to be disagreements"

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama on Friday compared tensions between the U.S. and Israel over the Iranian nuclear deal to a family feud and said he expects improvements in ties between the longtime allies to come quickly after the accord is implemented.

“Like all families, sometimes there are going to be disagreements,” Obama said in a webcast with Jewish Americans. “And sometimes people get angrier about disagreements in families than with folks that aren’t family.”

The president also encouraged skeptics of the agreement to “overcome the emotions” that have infused the debate and evaluate the accord based on facts.

“I would suggest that in terms of the tone of this debate everybody keep in mind that we’re all pro-Israel,” he said. “We have to make sure that we don’t impugn people’s motives.”

The president’s comments came as momentum for the Iran accord grows on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will vote next month on a resolution to disapprove of the deal. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., on Friday became the 30th senator to announce support for the deal, calling it a good deal for America and allies including Israel.

If Senate Democrats can amass 41 votes in favor of the agreement, they could block passage of the disapproval resolution. If that doesn’t happen and the GOP-led Senate votes to disapprove of the deal, Obama has vowed to veto it. Democrats then would need 34 votes — four more than they have now — to prevent a congressional override of the presidential veto.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the fiercest critics of the nuclear agreement, participated in an event hosted by the same Jewish organizations earlier this month. While Obama and Netanyahu have never had a warm relationship, the U.S. president’s pursuit of diplomacy with Iran has deeply strained ties between the leaders.

Obama has said once the nuclear accord is implemented, he expects “pretty quick” improvements in U.S.-Israeli relations. He called for resuming talks with Israel over ways to boost its security, discussions Israeli officials say they don’t want to have now because they would imply acceptance of the nuclear accord.

The U.S. negotiated alongside Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China for nearly two years before finalizing a landmark accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

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Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

TIME Nevada

4-Year-Old Boy Found Dead in Hot Pickup Truck

The boy may have been in the truck for up to 3 hours in the heat, police say

(LAS VEGAS) — Police in Las Vegas now say a 4-year-old boy who died in a stifling hot pickup truck might have been in the vehicle for up to three hours on a sunny 100-degree day.

Officer Laura Meltzer said Friday that police were called just before 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and the boy was pronounced dead at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center.

No arrests have been made.

Police say investigators found the child’s grandfather returned home with the boy earlier than 5 p.m., as originally reported.

A woman who spoke through the closed door of the family home about 5 miles east of downtown declined to identify herself or talk with a reporter.

The nonprofit Kids and Cars says the death was the 16th of its kind in the nation this year.

TIME College football

University of Illinois Fires Coach Tim Beckman Over Allegations of Player Mistreatment

illinois football coach tim beckman
Joe Robbins—Getty Images Illinois University football head coach Tim Beckman looks on during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 1, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio.

Beckman is accused of player mistreatment and inappropriate behavior

(CHAMPAIGN, Ill.) — Illinois fired coach Tim Beckman one week before the start of the season Friday, saying preliminary results of an investigation found some truth to allegations of player mistreatment and inappropriate behavior.

Athletic director Mike Thomas said the timing is unfortunate, but “it was in the best interests of student-athletes to act now.” Thomas said the final report would not be publicly released until during the season.

The Illini face Kent State at home Sept. 4 to start the season. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has been named interim coach.

Thomas said during a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers handling the investigation, he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. Thomas also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

Former starting lineman Simon Cvijanovic complained first on Twitter on May 9 and in numerous interviews that Beckman and his staff had tried to shame him into playing hurt misled him about medical procedures following a knee injury.

“All I can say right now is I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he told The Associated Press by phone after learning Beckman had been fired. “It seems like there’s more than just Beckman that needs to be held accountable.”

Beckman was 12-25 at Illinois, improving the team’s record each season. The Illini went 6-7 last year.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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