Von Miller's urine-soaked six-game suspension, more about death-penalty witness list

Update: In our post yesterday about the troubles afflicting Bronco Von Miller (see our previous coverage below), we noted reports that he would receive a six game suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy, as well as his surprise presence on the witness list for a death-penalty case stemming from a quintuple murder at Fero's Bar & Grille in October. Turns out the suspension speculation was spot-on: Miller was indeed put on the shelf for six games. Meanwhile, we've learned more from the Denver DA's office about the odds of him being called to testify.

First, the suspension. As we've reported, Miller was said to have violated the NFL drug policy in 2011 in regard to alleged use of marijuana and amphetamines, with the latter possibly being the club drug Molly. That triggered a testing schedule Miller was said to have violated. In the beginning, observers guessed that he'd missed a test -- but now, USA Today and other outlets are saying that after a Broncos workout, he spilled one urine sample and submitted another one that was diluted.

The latter could be innocent -- the result of over-hydration -- or an attempt to mask a positive reading.

Miller appealed the suspension, but before his argument could be heard, he was arrested on a bench warrant after missing a court date in December for several misdemeanor traffic violations. This gaffe wasn't supposed to impact the length of his suspension, and maybe it didn't. Somehow, though, what had originally been thought to be a four-game suspension was transformed into six.

Not that Miller's complaining. Here's his contrite statement after the ruling was handed down:

"The Substances of Abuse policy requires everyone to comply with the rules. Although my suspension doesn't result from a positive test, there is no excuse for my violations of the rules. I made mistakes and my suspension has hurt my team, Broncos fans, and myself. I am especially sorry for the effect of my bad decisions on others. I will not make the same mistakes about adhering to the policy in the future. During my time off the field, I will work tirelessly and focus exclusively on remaining in peak shape. I look forward to contributing immediately upon my return to the field and bringing a championship back to the people of Denver."
The suspension will reportedly cost Miller $806,162 in salary, and some pundits think it could also result in the Broncos failing to reach the Super Bowl this season. This last verdict strikes us as premature -- but Miller's prolonged absence, coupled with the distraction it'll cause, certainly makes this goal more difficult to achieve.

Regarding the Fero's case, Miller is not suspected of any wrongdoing. Rather, a document describes him as "a possible acquaintance of (a friend of Lewis)" who "may testify about prior events and the Defendant's attire."

What's that mean? Denver DA's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough says she's prohibited from explaining specifics about the case beyond noting that Miller is on the witness roster for the penalty phase of the matter targeting Dexter Lewis, thought to be the ringleader in the murder and arson at Fero's, as opposed to the trial portion. However, she is able to speak about witness lists in general.

"In the course of an investigation, detectives will talk to a lot of people," Kimbrough says, "and as the folks they talk with bring up other people, the detectives follow up and talk to those people. That's not unusual in any criminal case, and the detectives have to document all of that. So someone's name on a witness list may or may not mean there's a direct relation to a case, or that they'll ever be called as a witness in a proceeding. It simply means the detectives spoke with that person and documented it."

Reading between the lines, Miller may never take the stand against Lewis. But the fact that his name came up in the wake of an arrest couldn't have helped his cause with the NFL. And now, he's paying a heavy price -- as are Broncos fans.

Continue for our previous coverage about Von Miller's presence on the Fero's Bar & Grille death-penalty-case witness list, including photos, videos and documents about the crime. Original post, 6:05 a.m. August 20: At this point, Von Miller, the Broncos all-pro who was recently arrested for failing to appear at a court date over a traffic violation and may now be facing a six-game suspension for alleged violation of the NFL's drug policy, doesn't need to appear in more crime and punishment headlines. But here he goes again.

What now? Miller is listed as a possible witness in the death penalty case of Dexter Lewis, charged in the shocking murders of five people at Fero's Bar & Grill last October.

The story comes to us from 9News, which notes that Miller's name popped up in a newly filed court document. It suggests that the Denver District Attorney's Office may be interested in calling Miller as a "a possible acquaintance of (a friend of Lewis)" who "may testify about prior events and the Defendant's attire."

There's nothing in this description that suggests Miller was involved in the killings in any way -- a point stressed by the Denver Broncos organization, which told the station it's aware of the situation and understands that the player is cooperating fully with investigators.

Even so, the timing could not possibly be worse from Miller's standpoint. He was already facing a four-game suspension in connection with a drug test said to have been prompted by a 2011 positive reading for marijuana and amphetamines -- possibly the club drug Molly.

Then, right before he was scheduled to plead his case for leniency before NFL officials, Miller was busted at Centennial Gun Club on a warrant active since January, days after he skipped out on a court date for careless driving, driving without a license and no proof of insurance.

Many observers felt the bust would have zero effect on Miller's punishment in the drug case -- but lo and behold, the original appeal session was delayed, and now, persistent reports hold that he will now be put on the shelf for six games, not four.

If the punishment actually goes up from four games to six, the rationale may be the league's extremely flexible "personal conduct" policy. We found a 2008 copy online and have shared the complete document below -- but here's the introduction:
All persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League." This requirement applies to players, coaches, other tam employees, owners, game officials and all others privileged to work in the National Football League.

For many years, it has been well understood that rules promoting lawful, ethical, and responsible conduct serve the interests of the League, its players, and fans. Illegal or irresponsible conduct does more than simply tarnish the offender. It puts innocent people at risk, sullies the reputation of others involved in the game, and undermines public respect and support for the NFL.

Let's be clear: To extend Miller's suspension even further simply for knowing the friend of a man thought to have committed such a heinous act would be the height of unfairness. But the NFL doesn't have the most consistent reputation for equity.

We've got a call into the Denver DA's office asking for more information about Miller's presence on the witness list and will update this post when and if we receive a response. In the meantime, here's the aforementioned 9News report, followed by the personal conduct policy and our entire July 26 post about Lewis being charged with the death penalty, including an arrest report that provides startling details about the crime of which he's been accused.

NFL Personal Conduct Policy

"Dexter Lewis target of death penalty bid for Fero's killing, affidavit describes horrific scene," July 26. Update: Earlier this week, after Joseph and Lynell Hill pleaded guilty in the murder of five people at Fero's Bar & Grill (see our previous coverage below), observers speculated that pressure was building on Dexter Lewis, also charged in the case, to make a deal as well. But that may never have been an option. The Denver District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for Lewis -- the first time it has done so in more than a decade. An original arrest affidavit argues for such prosecution via a vivid depiction of a horrific crime. Continue to see the document and more.

Continue for more about the charging of Dexter Lewis with the death penalty for the quintuple murder and arson at Fero's Bar & Grille. The affidavit is in the name of Joseph Hill, but Denver DA's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough tells us it's otherwise identical to the one for Lewis.

Early on the morning of October 17, according to the doc's narrative, Denver police arrived at Fero's, 357 South Colorado Boulevard, after firefighters had already entered the premises and found five bodies later identified as Daria Pohl, Young Fero, Ross Richter, Teresa Beesley and Kellene Fallon. The victims were removed from the structure and placed on the sidewalk area in front of the business as the fire was addressed.

Investigators quickly determined that the blaze had been intentionally set, with an accelerant having been used to feed it.

There was evidence aplenty inside, but what really broke open the case was a call from an informant. The man is unidentified in the affidavit, but at a status hearing yesterday, he was divulged to be Demarea Harris, who turns out to have been both a friend of Joseph Hill and Lewis, as well as an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

That Harris has been publicly identified in such a violent case at this stage qualifies as a surprise, especially given a subsequent revelation from the affidavit: He told police that he was on the scene when the killings took place. Moreover, he maintains that what may have seemed like a robbery gone wrong was actually a semi-targeted assassination in which theft was more a byproduct than a primary motive.

Harris told cops he'd gone to Fero's with Lewis and the Hills, traveling there in a vehicle that had contained a couple of masks -- one depicting Iron Man, the other the Incredible Hulk, 7News reports.

Upon their arrival, Harris said the Hills stayed in the car while he and Lewis went inside, ordered some food and shot some pool. He added that Lewis was apparently familiar with two of the women -- Fero, the venue's owner, among them -- and was mad at them for "reasons that [he] was unclear about," the document states. In court yesterday, though, Harris testified that Fero had once kicked Lewis out of the bar, and the other woman had expelled him and his girlfriend from their apartment.

A short time later, Harris said he went to the bathroom, and when he returned, the Hills were inside, disguised by the masks, and the five other people in the bar were on the floor, being held at gunpoint. Joseph demanded identification and credit cards, and when the male patron -- Richter -- "appeared to refuse to comply," he became upset and used a knife also in his possession to stab him several times in the back and side. He then allegedly gave the knife to Lewis, who stabbed two of the women on the floor, with Joseph joining in and helping to stab the others to death as well.

Continue for more about the decision to charge Dexter Lewis with the death penalty for the Fero's Bar & Grill murders, including more photos, videos and documents. At that point, Harris said he ran out the back door while the men were pouring alcohol on the bodies; that was apparently the accelerant suspected by the arson squad. As he fled down Colorado Boulevard, the vehicle containing the Hills and Lewis screeched to a stop. Lewis yelled for Harris to get into the car, the affidavit allows, and he did. They then traveled to Joseph's apartment, where they cut and burned the latex gloves they'd been wearing and used bleach on their clothing to destroy evidence from the scene.

They also divided up the money they'd taken from the bar -- a reported $170, of which Harris was given $28.

Afterward, Harris was given a ride home. Once there, he said Lewis kissed him and said something to the effect of "Blood in, blood out," which he took to mean that he needed to keep quiet about what he'd seen.

He didn't -- and the Hills and Lewis were taken into custody at separate Denver-area hotels within hours.

Now, Denver DA Mitch Morrissey is seeking the death penalty against Lewis -- the first time his office has done so since 2001. However, the last time a Denver jury sentenced someone to death was 1986.

Capitol punishment has been in the news of late, not only due to the Aurora theater shooting, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against James Holmes, but also because of Governor John Hickenlooper's decision to grant a reprieve from execution to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of killing four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993.

ACLU of Colorado Deputy Director Stephen Meswarb decries Morrissey's decision, issuing the following statement:

"The ACLU of Colorado is disappointed by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey's decision to pursue the death penalty in this case. The death penalty is immoral, unjust, and expensive, and every execution and death warrant perpetuates an arbitrary system that can and does make irreversible mistakes.

"When prosecutors choose to pursue death, as Morrissey did today, they validate a deeply flawed system and disregard the substantive costs, both in terms of morality and actual taxpayer dollars, that accompany their decision."

However, Morrissey defended the move yesterday, arguing that the punishment fits the crime. See his explanation in the following 7News package, followed by the complete affidavit and our previous coverage.

Joseph Hill Arrest Affidavit

Continue to see our previous coverage of the murders at Fero's Bar & Grill dating back to October, complete with photos and videos. Original post, 10:06 a.m. July 24: Last October brought a crime that was as shocking as it was senseless -- the murder of five people at Fero's Bar & Grill, which was set on fire in an attempt to cover up evidence of the massacre.

Now, two of the three men accused in the case -- brothers Lynell and Joseph Hill -- have pleaded guilty for their actions, leaving only compatriot Dexter Hill's fate undetermined.

Learn the latest and remember the victims below via our original coverage and more.

At about 1:50 a.m. on October 17, as we've reported, the Glendale Fire Department responded to a call about a fire at Fero's, 357 South Colorado Boulevard. Inside, they found an indescribably grisly scene -- the bodies of five people, all of whom were stabbed to death. They were later identified as Fero's owner Young Fero, 63; Kellene Fallon, 45; Tereasa Beesley, 45; Ross Richter, 29; and Daria Pohl, 22.

We've got more information about each of the victims below -- but in the meantime, here are photos of each. Our sincere condolences to their family, friends and loved ones.

At an October press conference announcing the arrests of the three men, Denver Police Commander Ron Saunier said "it appears that the motive of this crime was robbery. They came in there...I don't want to say it was a robbery gone bad...." He added that "the arson was set to try to cover up the crime scene of the event."

The arrests of Lewis and the Hills were swift, and the seriousness of the crimes put the death penalty into play -- which likely accounts for the brothers' decision to plead guilty. Joseph copped to five counts of first-degree murder in order to avoid capital punishment; he'll receive a life sentence. Lynell, for his part, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and first-degree arson. The agreement stipulates a prison term of seventy years.

And Lewis? He's got a status hearing tomorrow afternoon -- and you can bet the pressure will be on him now to plead guilty as well.

Look below to see mug shots of the three men, followed by the charging documents, which testify to the brutality of what took place at Fero's. After that, find our original coverage in its entirety, including more photos and videos.

Fero's Bar and Grill Murder-Arson: Charging Documents

Continue to see our previous coverage of the crimes at Fero's Bar & Grill. Update, 6 a.m. October 19, 2012: The Denver Police Department has released mug shots of Dexter Lewis, Joseph Hill and Lynell Hill, the three men suspected of killing five people at Fero's Bar & Grill early Wednesday morning and then setting the business on fire.

We're also getting a closer look at the victims -- a group from a wide range of backgrounds who met their tragic ends side by side.

As we've reported, first responders on the scene after the initial call at 1:50 a.m. on October 17 were fire fighters, due to the blaze engulfing the bar. Once inside, however, they discovered the bodies of four women and one man, later identified as owner Young Fero, 63; Kellene Fallon, 45; Tereasa Beesley, 45; Ross Richter, 29; and Daria Pohl, 22. Police say their remains showed signs of "some trauma," although that phrase has yet to be more specifically described. They're thought to have been killed first, after which a fire was set to destroy evidence of the crime.

Yesterday, we shared photos and stories of Fero and Richter; that information is on view below, as part of our previous coverage. Now, however, we've got more details about the other three victims. Fallon is affectionately referred to by friends who spoke to the Denver Post as "Crazy Kelly." She's said to have lived at a nearby hotel and worked odd jobs, as well as being a Fero's regular.

As for Pohl, her many friends, most of whom called her Dasha rather than Daria, say she worked at a Holiday Inn down the street from Fero's -- and they're devastated by her loss. Her Facebook page features a number of portraits. Here's one example....

...and here's a photo from September that appears to show her posing with Richter, an outdoors lover who moved to Colorado from Kansas a couple of years ago: As for Beesley, her Facebook page notes that she's a divorced native of Sydney, Montana, who called Denver home. In the "About Me" section, she wrote: "I am still a teenager at heart, love to go out and socialize, but do take my home life with my 2 kids very seriously." Here's a photo fo Beesley: Regarding the suspects, the Post reports that Lewis's dad was a gang member who died violently in 1994. His criminal record includes robbery, menacing and misdemeanor sexual assault. He's said to be engaged to be married, with a fiancee who's pregnant and only weeks from delivering. As for the Hills, who are brothers, Lynell had a couple of misdemeanor assault charges in Arapahoe County in 2010 and 2011. More recently, Lynell is said to have been involved with a talent agency, while Joseph managed a hotel.

Our previous coverage is below.

Continue for our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 6:54 a.m. October 18: Moments ago, Denver Police Chief Robert White and Commander Ron Saunier announced that three arrests had been made in the quintuple murders that took place early yesterday morning at Fero's Bar & Grill on Colorado Boulevard; see our previous coverage below. According to White and Saunier, the incident began as a robbery before escalating into homicide and arson. More details below.

After a brief introduction by Chief White at this morning's news conference, which got underway a few minutes after the scheduled 6:30 a.m. start time, Commander Saunier offered the thoughts and prayers of the Denver Police Department to the family and friends of the five victims in the Fero's case, as well as to anyone who's lost a loved one through an act of violence.

Then he revealed the arrest of three suspects in the crime. Late last night, close to 11 p.m., he said, various law enforcers cuffed Dexter Lewis (date of birth: February 16, 1990) on the 8300 block of East Colfax. Shortly thereafter, officers took into custody Joseph Hill (date of birth: August 11, 1985) and Lynell Hill (October 27, 1987) on the 4800 block of Quebec Street.

After thanking various agencies for assisting in these busts, Saunier revealed that "it appears that the motive of this crime was robbery. They came in there...I don't want to say it was a robbery gone bad...." He added that "the arson was set to try to cover up the crime scene of the event."

Saunier noted that key information was received after a 2 p.m. news conference yesterday at which little new was divulged about the investigation, which began after a fire call at the bar led to the discovery of four women and one man whose bodies bore the marks of "some trauma." According to Saunier, "detectives ran numerous search warrants. They're still working on following up. We're at the beginning of developing a case like this."

The suspects are currently being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and felony murder -- five counts' worth apiece -- plus aggravated robbery and arson. There could also be additional charges down the line.

Right now, the DPD believes all the suspects in the case are in custody, and that all three were physically in the bar at the time the crime was committed. Investigators aren't releasing mug shots yet. However, Saunier described the records of the suspects as "very limited in the State of Colorado."

More on this story as it develops. In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the victims of this brutal crime.

Update, 6:04 a.m. October 17: Photos and additional information are surfacing about some of the five victims murdered at Fero's Bar & Grill early yesterday in what Denver Police Chief Robert White is describing as a "homicide-arson," in which four women and one man were killed and then a fire was set; see our earlier coverage below. Here are more details about bar owner Young Fero and Ross Richter, who lost their lives under terrible but still mysterious circumstances. Young Fero, 63, was remembered fondly by regulars at the bar who spoke with Fox31. One, Chris Brady, described her as "a sweet old lady who makes great food.... I'm probably here three or four nights a week either playing poker or grabbing some food."

Indeed, Brady had been at the bar on the fatal evening, but left around 11 p.m., when he recalled the joint being all but deserted. The call about a fire there came in at around 1:50 a.m.

Another patron, Michael Yazzie, dropped a flower at the bar in remembrance of Fero. He recalled her saying no one gave her flowers anymore.

Folks speaking with CBS4 had similarly warm recollections about Fero, who's said to have regularly given away food to the nearby homeless and always closed the place herself.

This last habit may explain why Fero was a victim -- although at this point, the police have named no suspects and haven't mentioned anything about motive.

Meanwhile, the sole male victim, Ross Richter, 29, has been confirmed by KSHB-TV to have been a native of Overland Park, Kansas.

The station says he was a 2001 graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School who subsequently matriculated from Kansas State University before moving to Colorado a couple of years ago.

There's not much additional information on his Facebook page, but there are plenty of photos of him enjoying the great outdoors.

Here are some examples.

Look below to see a Fox31 report on the crime, followed by our previous coverage.

Continue to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 6:21 p.m. October 17: It often takes days for the Denver coroner's office to identify homicide victims. But the office has already released the names of those who lost their lives in a quintuple homicide at Fero's Bar & Grill early this morning -- a crime in which the perpetrator or perpetrators appear to have started a fire after the killing was done. Among the victims: Young Fero, the 63-year-old owner and namesake of the establishment.

Here's the complete list from the coroner's office:

Ms. Daria M. Pohl of Denver (22 year old white female -- DOB: 10-29-1990).

Ms. Kellene Fallon of Denver (45 year old white female -- DOB: 10-24-1967)

Ms. Young Fero of Aurora (63 year old Asian female -- DOB: 7-30-1949)

Mr. Ross Richter (29 year old white male -- DOB: 11/26/1982)

Ms. Tereasa Beesley of Denver, Colorado (45 year old white female -- DOB 7-10-1967)

At this point, the autopsy results in each case is listed as pending. However, there's no mystery about the manner of death: homicide.

As for a possible motive, the police are not sharing any information at this time. However, the Denver Post reports that the bar was struggling financially. No way of knowing at this point if this issue was a factor in the homicides -- the sort of brutal act that's left the community reeling.

Look below to see our previous coverage.

Update, 2:35 p.m. October 17: Moments ago, Denver Police Chief Robert White made his second appearance before media mics regarding a quintuple slaying at Fero's Bar & Grill; see our previous coverage below. White said what he's calling a "homicide-arson" is "very alarming" and noted that officers are actively looking into tips received in the hours since the five victims were discovered.

White began by extending the department's condolences to the family and loved ones of the victims and emphasized that the Denver Police will use all of its power and resources to find the perpetrators of this deadly act.

Next, he noted that investigators remained inside the Colorado Boulevard venue and described damage done by a fire apparently set to destroy evidence after the murders took place as "extensive." He added that officers were canvassing the area to see if security cameras at nearby businesses had captured any footage that could aid officers in tracking down the killer.

No more info about the identities of the victims. White said representatives of the Denver coroner's office would release the names and causes of death "when they deem it appropriate to do so."

Otherwise, the investigation is ongoing, he stressed -- and the department has "received some tips," he pointed out. "Some of those, we think, will be helpful."

He encouraged anyone with additional information, no matter how trivial it might seem, to phone the department's main line, 720-913-2000, or Crime Stoppers, at 720-913-STOP (7867).

Then came questions from the assembled media, most of which White declined to answer. He wouldn't talk about whether a weapon had been found inside the bar, for instance, and refused to rule out any possibilities in response to a question about whether gang involvement is suspected. Likewise, he wouldn't say whether the victims were employees, customers or others.

However, he did confirm that the department had not received any calls about Fero's prior to the early hours of this morning. That's when the Glendale Fire Department received a report of a fire, after which personnel discovered the five fatalities -- four women and one man whose bodies bore the marks of what he previously described as "some trauma."

The incident is "very alarming," White allowed. For that reason, it's "so important we investigate it to the fullest -- use the eyes and ears of anyone who may have heard or seen anything to bring this to closure as expeditiously as possible.

"It is hopeful this is an isolated incident," he went on, "but I can't say that with any definitiveness. We haven't gotten that far in the investigation." In the meantime, he advised residents, "like I would advise anyone," to pay attention to their surroundings and call the police "if you see anything even remotely suspicious."

Continue to see our previous coverage, including a video and a map of the area near the crime scene. Update, 9:48 a.m. October 17: At this writing, investigators remain on the scene at Fero's Bar & Grill, where a fire call early this morning led to the shocking discovery of five dead bodies. The Denver Police Department is keeping most of the details to emerge thus far out of the public eye. But a spokesman has offered one more insight: Cops suspect that the victims were killed and then the fire was set, presumably to destroy evidence of the crime.

That's the word from Denver Police Commander Ron Saunier, quoted by 9News. Other information was provided by Police Chief Robert White at an early morning news conference. Look below to see our previous coverage.

Original post, 5:46 a.m. October 17: Moments ago, Denver Police Chief Robert White held a highly unusual 5:30 a.m. press conference due to a highly unusual, and extraordinarily brutal, crime.

White confirmed the death of five people at Fero's Bar & Grill in what's being investigated as, in his words, "an arson-homicide."

During his brief remarks, White provided only the most basic information about the crime. According to him, a call came in to the Glendale Fire Department at 1:50 a.m. this morning about a fire at Fero's, 357 South Colorado Boulevard, which is described like so in our Voice Places listing:
A longstanding dive that has been around for decades, Fero's Bar & Grill has almost everything a neighborhood joint needs - cheap drinks, decent food (an interesting mix of burgers, subs, pizza and Japanese bowls), pool tables and entertainment on the weekends. While it's not necessarily the liveliest place in town, this low-profile bar in a strip mall on the outskirts of Cherry Creek North offers a respite from the high-priced spots in the area. Fero's attracts a number of unpretentious regulars as well as travelers staying at nearby hotels.
Glendale personnel raced to the scene, White continued, and upon their arrival, they discovered five fatalities -- four females and one male -- all with what White described as "some trauma" to their bodies.

When asked by the reporters at the scene to further describe what he meant by "some trauma" -- and whether bullets could have been involved in addition to presumed damage caused by the blaze -- White declined to get more specific at this time.

At this time, the dead have not been identified pending notification of family members, White said. He added that no suspects are being named at this time.

Arson investigators remain at the scene and streets around Fero's are currently closed, although White expects that traffic will be flowing in all directions by later this morning. He offered no characterization about the amount of damage to the bar.

We'll be following this story as it develops. In the meantime, here's a video of White at the scene courtesy of CBS4 and a look at an interactive graphic of the area near the scene. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."

View Larger Map

More from our Mile High Murder archive: "James Holmes case update: Judge wants more info about request to release victim names."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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