Report: Officer Wilson testifies before grand jury in Ferguson shooting case

— Shortly after being given more time to weigh evidence in black teenager Michael Brown’s fatal shooting, a Missouri grand jury heard from the man at the center of it — Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson — a local newspaper reported.

Wilson shot and killed the 19-year-old Brown in the middle of the day on August 9, in the middle of a street in the St. Louis suburb. Authorities could have charged Wilson themselves by filing a criminal complaint, but St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch instead opted to present the case to a grand jury that could indict the officer, or not.

On Wednesday, Wilson testified for almost four hours in front of the seven men and five women on that grand jury, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, citing a source with knowledge of the investigation.

The same source cited by the paper claimed that the Ferguson police officer, who was put on paid administrative leave after the shooting, has been “cooperative” in his two conversations with St. Louis County investigators and one with federal investigators. In addition to the county’s case, the U.S. Justice Department has launched its own civil rights investigation into the shooting.

Unlike many other aspects of the legal system, grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. Their mission is not to decide — unanimously — if there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone on a charge, as is the case with a criminal jury.

Rather in Missouri, nine grand jurors — or three-fourths of the total — have to agree there is sufficient probable cause to charge someone with a crime.

The fact that grand jury proceedings are secret has irked Brown’s camp, many of whom accuse McCulloch of being too cozy with law enforcement. They question his commitment to pressing a case against Wilson, who is white, for the shooting of a young African-American man.

The late teen’s supporters have demanded Wilson be charged, accusing him of shooting the unarmed Brown when his hands were up. Meanwhile, Wilson’s backers — including a radio caller identifying herself as Josie, who recounted his purported version of events — claimed that the officer only fired after the larger Brown struggled with, taunted and then ran at him.

There was no guarantee that Wilson would get the chance to tell a grand jury his side of the story. The defense doesn’t present a case in these proceedings, which are run by prosecutors.

“Usually an accused will not be invited to testify,” Neil Bruntrager, a criminal defense lawyer and general counsel for the St. Louis Police Officer Association, told CNN in August. “But I would expect, in a case like this, that an invitation would be extended to him.”

So how will this all shake out? What will the grand jury of nine whites and three African-Americans decide? Will they indict Wilson, or will they clear him?

The public may not find out anytime soon.

On August 20 — when mobs of protesters were still regularly hitting the streets of Ferguson demanding Wilson’s arrest and, at times, clashing with law enforcement — McCulloch told CNN affiliate KMOV that “the aspirational time is by mid-October to have everything completed.”

And they could have more time, if they need it, than that.

St. Louis County Judge Carolyn Whittington has extended the grand jury’s deadline until January 7, Paul Fox, the county’s director of judicial administration, told CNN this week.

CNN’s Holly Yan and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

Michael Sam signed to Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad

— He may not play on game days, but Michael Sam — the first openly gay man to be drafted into the NFL — will at least have a home in the league once the regular season starts: the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys announced Wednesday they’d signed the former University of Missouri defender to their 10-man practice squad, a group that plays during the week with members of the 53-man roster but not during official games.

That means Sam isn’t likely to record a sack or tackle in front of national television cameras anytime soon. Even so, his signing — in light of all the attention he has received, as a possible groundbreaker in pro football — drew plenty of attention.

Jerry Jones, Dallas’ high-profile owner, president and general manager, cast the signing as a football decision for the club that is sometimes dubbed America’s Team.

“The facts are that, if he’s good enough to develop as a practice squad (player) and could evolve — as many players do — … into a contributor, then that would be a plus for the Cowboys,” he told reporters. “That’s it.”

Jones touched on Sam’s strengths and weaknesses, describing him as a “relentless” worker and pass rusher who “is going to have to make for a little speed (and) make up for a little size.”

“But how many times have we seen that happen?” the Cowboys’ owner and general manager said. “That’s what makes football.”

One thing that Jones did not express any reservations about is how Sam will fit in the locker room.

He noted that his son, Stephen Jones, Dallas’ chief operating officer and director of player personnel, is “really close friends” with Jeff Fisher, the St. Louis Rams head coach. The Rams drafted Sam — an All-American defensive end in college — in the seventh and final round of the NFL draft last May, only to waive him Saturday after four preseason games.

Talking about what Fisher told the Cowboys executive about Sam, Jerry Jones said, “He was an addition to their locker room, he brought a plus to the locker room.”

Fisher praised the signing as “a great decision by the Cowboys,” especially given the injuries they’ve suffered recently on their defensive line.

“I hope Mike gets a chance,” the Rams coach said. “Maybe he can help them.”

CNN’s Wayne Sterling, Jill Martin and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

Robin Williams: Full of talent, full of demons, full of heart

— Of all the things to say about Robin Williams, the truest may be this: He made people smile.

They might be those who packed comedy cubs for his frenetic, improvisational, hilarious routines. Or those who fell in love with him as the lovable alien Mork and stayed in love through fun films such as “Aladdin” and serious ones such as “Good Will Hunting.” Or those who had the pleasure of knowing him as a man — a kind, decent, generous soul who made others’ lives better.

Throughout his 63 years, Williams rarely failed to impress others with his charisma, his talent, his heart. All the while, he fought his personal demons — including substance abuse that led to at least two rehab stints, the most recent coming last summer.

Ultimately, those struggles led to his end. According to police, Williams apparently hanged himself with a belt this week in a bedroom of his Marin County, California, home. Someone who’d given so much to so many over the years, in ways big and small, decided to take his own life after struggling with depression.

Still, while Williams never denied his struggles, he was never defined by them either. Just ask those who rubbed elbows with him, whether they were big-time comedians or fathers he could give joy to their ailing children.

Invariably, they had a story that involved him laughing, telling stories and making people feel good.

“His impact on the world was so positive,” tweeted comedian and occasional co-star Ben Stiller. “He did so much good for people. He made and so many people laugh so hard for a very long time.”

‘A comedy force of nature’

The son of a model and an auto company executive, Robin Williams was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951, yet spent most of his childhood in and around Detroit.

Chubby and sometimes bullied, Williams laid low growing up — the latter being expected in his family, Williams told People in a 2009 interview, even if it’s opposite of the bigger-than-life persona he’d cultivate through his career.

“The ideal child was seen, not heard,” he said then.

In an interview with the Detroit Free-Press, Williams characterized himself as “the opposite of a class clown” while at Detroit Country Day, a private boys school. He worked hard, played soccer and wrestled and “just went out of my way to fit in.”

“I loved school, maybe too much really. I was summa cum laude in high school,” he told the Free-Press. “I was driven that way.”

As a teen, Williams moved to Northern California’s Marin County — attending high school and college there before enrolling at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School for performing arts. He’d later return to the Bay Area, handing out Halloween candy and boosting local causes.

The once shy boy also found his place and his voice on stage at comedy clubs. Even after making a name for himself in Hollywood, he kept coming back to do stand-up at establishments such as Cobb’s, Catch a Rising Star, the Improv and The Comedy Store because, as he told People: “It was my only release.”

“To see Robin perform was an experience,” fellow comedian Gilbert Gottfried recalled in a piece on CNN.com. “He was more than a comedian. He was a comedy force of nature.”

Mork from Ork

The comedy clubs may have been where Robin Williams felt at home. But he made it into millions of Americans’ homes in his role as Mork from Ork.

Just as there’s never been anyone else like Williams, there’s been no other character like Mork — an alien who took an egg-shaped spaceship to Earth and, thanks to Williams, ended up stealing many Earthlings’ hearts.

The character debuted on the sit-com “Happy Days,” whose star Henry Winkler “realized I was in the presence of greatness” during Williams’ first rehearsal. From the start, his delivery, myriad faces and improvisational talents made him hard to resist.

“I just realized my only job is to keep a straight face,” said Winkler, who played “The Fonz.” “And it was impossible. Because no matter what you said to him, no matter what line you gave to him, he took it in, processed it, and then it flew out of his mouth, never the same way twice. And it was incredibly funny every time.”

The “Happy Days” appearance was such a hit that CBS created “Mork and Mindy,” pairing him with his human roommate played by Pam Dawber and fellow alien (and real-life idol) Jonathan Winters.

The show’s run ended four years later in 1982, during which time Williams also starred as the titular character in the movie, “Popeye.”

Williams didn’t rest on his laurels. In fact, the beloved comedian turned his career on its heels by turning to dramas, starting with “The World According to Garp.”

Instead of tickling people’s funny bones, he tugged at their heartstrings. And as he had done at comedy clubs, Williams excelled in roles in films such as “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society.”

Seesawing between comedy and drama

Williams went back and forth over the decades to come, from family-friendly fare such as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and as the voice of the genie in “Aladdin” to more adult-themed movies such as “The Birdcage” and “The Fisher King.”

What turned out to be biggest role yet was actually a small film led by two then unknown actors, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, in “Good Will Hunting.” Playing sage psychologist and community college Professor Sean Maguire, Williams won the Oscar — after losing out three other times– for supporting actor.

As he stepped on stage to accept the award, he said, “This might be the one time I’m speechless” — before launching an emotional, humble, joke-laden speech thanking all those involved in the film and his life.

“And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there. the man who, when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.’ “

As the years rolled by, Williams didn’t slow down.

He seesawed in his roles — from dark pieces such as “One Hour Photo” and “Death to Smoochy,” to the lighter likes of “Happy Feet” and the “Night at the Museum” movies. He even went back to TV on the short-lived CBS comedy, “The Crazy Ones.”

The admitted workaholic at one point turned out eight movies over a two-year period. He told The Guardian in 2010 that he’d “take it slow … and enjoy the ride” after his 2009 heart surgery, though that doesn’t seem the case: Four more films — “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” “Merry Friggin’ Christmas,” “Boulevard” and “Absolutely Anything” — are expected to be released posthumously.

“You have this idea that you’d better keep working, otherwise people will forget,” he said.

A funny man and humanitarian

Yet, as hard as he worked, Williams was never just about his work.

For all the admiration of his talents, other actors remembering Williams tended to talk first about his huge heart, as the type of person who made you feel special, made you feel loved and made you laugh.

And then there is his considerable charity work: Look to the Stars, a website that compiles the charitable work of celebrities, notes that Williams offered his time, money and celebrity to over 50 causes.

That humanitarian work ranges from hosting Comic Relief, biking in a fundraiser for good friend Lance Armstrong’s cancer support charity Livestrong, to appearing pro bono in TV spots and then some for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The United Service Organization, or USO, hailed Williams for his 12 years performing for nearly 90 military personnel in 13 countries.

He connected many more times one-on-one. That might mean boosting the confidence of an up-and-coming comedian, bringing the first smile to former Juillard roommate and close friend Christopher Reeve after he was paralyzed or reaching out personally to young people suffering from serious illnesses.

“I couldn’t believe it,” CNN iReporter Mark Cole said about Williams’ chartering a plane, at his own expense, to visit and trade jokes with his ailing daughter in 2004. “I felt very privileged that he came to spend the day with her like that. It was the most moving thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Survived by wife and three children

Yet as his death showed, Williams wasn’t always upbeat.

He made no secret about his battles with substance abuse, even as he joked that “cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you too much money.” His fight didn’t get easier as he got older; if anything, it got harder.

“When you relapse, you fall deeper,” Williams told People in 2009. “I found myself drinking to blackouts. It’s like your brain goes into witness protection.”

Beyond that, his media representative Mara Buxbaum noted that Williams “has been battling severe depression of late.”

His personal life wasn’t always smooth either. He had a son, Zak, with his first wife, Valerie Velardi. Williams then spent 19 years with wife Marsha — a union that led to two more children, Zelda and Cody, before ending in divorce in 2008.

In October 2011, he wed graphic designer Susan Schneider in Napa Valley, California.

On her Twitter feed, his daughter Zelda remembered her dad with a quote from Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince.”

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night … You — only you — will have stars that can laugh.”

Zelda added, “I love you. I miss you. I’ll try to keep looking up.”

CNN’s Alan Duke, Josh Levs, Travis Sattiewhite, Rachel Wells and Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.