Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts

20 January 2019

Florida News– Year in Review

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard
It’s been quite a while since the last posting vis-à-vis the madness that constitutes Florida. Ask Dave Barry. Ask Carl Hiaasen. Ask Fark.com, which awarded Florida its own tag, the only state to have earned that, er, particular honor. It’s time to review this past year.

Scott-Free

Tallahassee, FL.  Since we last spoke, our crooked Governor Rick Scott has now become our crooked Senator Rick Scott. I use the word ‘crook’ accurately and advisedly. After all, this is a crime site, not a political blog, and from a criminal standpoint, Rick Scott has made us all proud. In the land of crooks, cons, and craziness, how did he accomplish such singular honor?

Scott engineered the most massive Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history. After fines of $1.7-billion– that’s ‘billion’ with a ‘B’– he left the lucrative health care business a very wealthy man. In 2010, he turned his jaundiced sights on a fresh target– politics– where he outspent the Florida Republican party to win the nomination, and then outspent the Florida Democratic party to win the governorship. Now he becomes an unbecoming senator. Pass the fermented orange juice, please.

Reptilian Brain

St. Augustine, FL.  Sheesh. Stay out of the pool if you can’t tell a crocodile from an alligator. But wait, there’s more: The dude’s accused of  jumping in while wearing Crocs. A reptilian brain trumps no brain at all.

Leave Fluffy Alone!

Clearwater, FL.  Where’s that crocodile when we need him? A year and a half earlier at Orlando Executive Airport, an alligator took a bite out of an airplane wing. That’s not unusual, but this plane was in flight.

Tuff Mothers

Sarasota, FL.  My tiny 5-foot nothing mom was a fearsome spitfire, but these bitches fight with broken glass. It’s that reptilian brain, see.

Bouncing’s Not Only for Checks

Jacksonville, FL.  It’s not funny. Police are hunting a masked man who beat a dozing laundromat patron with a pogo stick. Was it a lack of coordination or the extra starch? Next Up: Assault with a deadly unicycle.
Note:  When I first heard this story, I chuckled in disbelief at the peculiarity of Florida. Later I learned the victim died from the oddball attack. It’s wise to remember even the goofiest crimes can have dire real-world consequences. To my knowledge, police have not located the perpetrator nor know a reason for the attack.

Extra Starch Again: It’s the Carbs

Yulee, FL. Stick a fork in it,” a North Florida man took seriously. He stabbed a poor woman in the head for undercooking his potato. What an idiot. Think she’ll ever bake a spud for him again? Lucky for him, Nassau County jail serves all the fries he can eat.

Damn, the Driver Missed

Jacksonville, FL.  Why chase ambulances when clients come to your door?

No Relation to Catherine the Great

Citra, FL.  I’m… I’m without words… and creeped out. I’ve heard of kinky pony girls, but this bizarre bozo leaves me speechless.

Kill ’em with Kindness

Minton, FL.  Can’t say our bad guys don’t wield a sense of humor. In Santa Rosa County, a wannabe killer scrawled ‘kindness’ on the blade of his machete and attacked his neighbor. The real shocker is this product of Florida education spelt the word correctly.

It’s the Carbs, Man

Lake City, FL.  Let’s close on a sweet, feel-good story ya gotta love. Cops rescued a stolen Krispy Kreme Doughnut truck and about a zillion maple-glazed, which they (munch, munch) shared with homeless folks. (urp, ’scuse me)

Orlando, FL.  An Orlando officer showed considerably less humor when he complained to a radio talk show about that stereotype of police and doughnuts. He was caught calling from a Dunkin’ Donuts.

23 July 2017

Florida News, Moral Retardation

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard
Florida madness waits for no one. The Sunshine State exists merely to make other states feel better. Usually I adopt a mocking stance, but sometimes the subjects are too dark, too sick for levity. Two of the most disturbing stories– one about a truly sick honeymooning couple– I’ve removed from today’s lineup. At least we finish with a warming palate cleanser. Let the revue begin.

Water Hazard

Tampa, FL.  Golf courses once employed kids to retrieve wayward balls from ponds, lakes, and water hazards. In Florida, courses can get a bit rough. Ask Scott Lahodik. He’s worked as a golf ball search-and-rescue professional for nearly three decades.

Recently a Charlotte alligator violently objected to Lahodik disturbing his collection. Lahodik thinks it might be time to retire.

Cutting the Cord

Deland, FL.  A professional skydiver chose to die doing what he loved. This might have been easier to take if it weren’t for people who loved him.

How Bow Dah

Boynton Beach, FL.  Without adding to her publicity/notoriety, a 13-year-old girl has become (in)famous for bad behavior and poor enunciation. Violent and apparently proud of bottomless ignorance, she appeared on Dr. Phil where she told him he wasn’t nothin’ until she graced his show. She’s also shown up in music videos, television shows, and courtrooms. Our home-grown (sort of) girl is an experience… and not a good one.

Wired

Boynton Beach, FL.  That teen girl isn’t the only bad actor from Boynton Beach. Police arrested a man with an electronic devices wired to his penis. Prosecutors will no doubt file a, er, battery of, um, charges.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the ‘electronic device’ was a GPS? That would be embarrassing.

Jacksonville, FL.  We’re not done with penises yet, but a Duval County man nearly was. He managed to shoot himself in one of the worst places he could shoot himself. This is reminiscent of the Florida woman who was, well, caught pleasuring herself with a loaded pistol. Some people like to live dangerously.

Armed and, well, Armed

Deltona, FL.  A Volusia County man shot himself in the arm. This is the USA– people shoot themselves all the time. However, this man didn’t realize it until he changed his shirt… three… days… hence. (Shh! I always wanted to use that word.)

Listen folks, this is Florida. It’s freaking hot here. People sweat. God knows how many days he’d already been wearing that garment. We should change shirts three times a day instead of every three days. I know it’s difficult to detect one’s own body odor, but how bad do you have to stink when even a bullet hole under your arm goes numb?

Voter Fraudster, Oh Yeah

Sarasota, FL.  You know who Steve Bannon is, icon of alt-right rags and radio, and a fixture in the White House. You know about the desperate quest to prove some kind– any kind– of voter fraud. The committee need look no further than Florida.

Not only did Stephen Kevin Bannon register to vote in New York, he also registered to vote in Florida. For a home address, he listed a vacant house he never lived in and scheduled to be torn down.

That’s one. Now the fraud committee has another 199,999,999 voters to check out.

Aramis Ayala

Orlando, FL.  The Supreme Court has forced Florida to back down on a number of legal issues. In its excitement to execute, SCOTUS has required capital cases to be reviewed, which resulted in instances of actual innocence. The Court also directed Florida to stop incarcerating children for life. Florida judges made paltry efforts to see that children convicted of crimes less than murder have a chance, however slim, of seeing the outside world again before they die.

Orange and Osceola Counties recently elected a black prosecutor, a major step for Florida. However, our governor (you already know my criticisms about Rick Scott) virtually stripped her of prosecutorial powers and reassigned cases to other state attorneys. To rephrase, Governor Rick Scott has removed State Attorney Aramis Ayala from major cases, nullifying our election of this woman.

Setting aside racist overtones, the crux of the matter centers around the governor’s lust for capital punishment while Attorney Aramis Ayala has expressed doubts about the morality and effectiveness of the death penalty. No doubt Scott has his Attorney General pin-up babe Pam Bondi trying to figure out a legal justification for his actions.

My opinion? Governor, WE elected her as OUR state attorney, not yours. Screw up the rest of the state and leave us alone.

Shoot First… The rules are different here.

Tallahassee, FL.  Florida proudly originated the Shoot First / Stand Your Ground law detested by police and despised by prosecutors. It’s thought to thwart prosecution of approximately one hundred homicides a year (including children), triple the average. Now Florida has introduced a new and improved SF/SYG law designed to make it even more difficult to prosecute killers in a state already in love with death.

Now Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch has ruined the party by declaring the amended law unconstitutional. Governor Scott suffered the vapors at the news and waved his blonde bombshell Attorney General Pam Bondi into action. Miss Bondage is presently trying to find a legal argument to shut down the judge’s ruling.

He Who Laughs Last…

Cocoa, FL.  No doubt you’ve heard the news that four Florida ƒtards stood around joking, recording, deriding and reviling a man as he drowned instead of saving him. For once, I suffer a paucity of adjectives.

The question has been raised, why do we rush to implement Shoot First / Stand Your Ground laws but don’t have a Good Samaritan law? Folks, this is Florida.

And also, why should a civilized society require laws to do the right thing? Oh yes, this is Florida. But the next story might make you feel better.

Stone the Samaritans

Lakeland, FL.  Our hysterical society has developed such a fear of men with children, it’s become dangerous for both. A Polk County man attending a softball game noticed a lost child wandering around. He tried to help her find her wayward family.

When one of her parents finally bothered to notice the little girl was missing, he ran down the man he spotted with his daughter and, attacking him from behind, badly beat him. Police tried to tell the foolish father the stranger was trying to help, but the man refused to accept that possibility. Maybe the family felt a little guilt himself, but they took to Facebook to falsely deride the man who helped and demand police arrest and prosecute the helper as a sexual predator.

He Who Writes Last…

Panama City, FL.  A family– nine people in all– found themselves in trouble and unable to swim back to shore. Good Samaritans organized a sort of bucket brigade, a chain of 30 to 50 possibly up to 80 heroes and heroines extending far into the rip tide to save the family.

Kudos and congratulations. Sometimes Floridians get it right.

09 July 2017

The Thrill is Gone

by Leigh Lundin

John Grisham novels draw me in; I enjoy them immensely. The Firm especially appealed to me because it struck close to home, following my stumbling upon massive fraud within one of the largest Wall Street firms. In imaginative moments, I picture a dark, violent response turned into a Hollywood thriller. I could have found myself in a dastardly plot, on the run for my life with a miniskirted damsel as vice presidents and accounting drones dropped dead around me. Excited movie audiences would gasp between mouthfuls of popcorn, women would cry, and children would whisper, “He’s so bwave.”

Twists of tension hallmark a Grisham tale. Some of his novels are sensitive and many explore societal issues, but I most enjoy his thrillers, those with brain versus vicious brawn.

During the holiday, I sat down with The Whistler, which promised to be a thriller. Meh, not so much.

Not every book from a great author turns out brilliantly. S.S. Van Dine said writers should stop after six novels, because no author has more than six good mystery books in him. There’s truth in that and Van Dine went on to prove his own point. He wrote twelve novels, but critics felt the latter half dozen were decidedly inferior.

Problem Number 1

Grisham set his novel in Florida. Mere Mississippi madness can’t match Florida’s lunatic weirdness, no more than New York neurosis nor Indiana insanity can. Florida floats alone in its own sea of bizarre psychosis.

Take for example our governor… please. This man committed the largest fraud in Medicare/Medicaid history… the most sizable medical corruption ever. The fines alone amounted to $1.7-billion, which left him plenty remaining to buy a Florida governorship. We, the real loonies who ignored his corruption, voted him into office not once but twice.

Rick Scott, largest fraud in Medicare/Medicaid history
Florida Governor Rick Scott, largest fraud in Medicare/Medicaid history © Miami Herald

Thus when Grisham’s novel promises the largest judicial fraud in the history of America, the bar is set historically high. The New York Times reviewer failed to grasp this, but the multi-millions discussed in the story don’t come close to real-life frauds, not by Florida standards. Cons and bunco-artists have long prospered in the Sunshine State where mere six and seven figures are pocket change. If Grisham hadn’t promised biggest, hugest, worstest fraud, then we Floridians might have more easily suspended our disbelief.

Problem Number 2

I wanted more characterization, particularly of its heroine, Lacy Stoltz. While the author shortchanged many characters, Grisham delivered better with her short-lived partner, Hugo Hatch. Grisham colorfully describes Greg Myers/Mix, a disbarred lawyer, but abandons him halfway through the book.

Characterization of minor characters shouldn’t come at the expense of major inhabitants, especially the criminal mastermind behind everything, barely fleshed out by the end of the novel. We also learn little about the whistle-blower who started it all.

As for corrupt Judge Claudia McDover, I award a C. The main issue comes from her worrying if a man she sent to death row was truly guilty. Listen, John, we in Florida love to send even innocents to Old Sparky and Gassy Gus and believe me, officials don’t fret about it, they brag about it. Get with the program, man.

I lost count at the number of bitter divorcées in the novel, five or possibly six. Male writers think the way to a woman’s heart is to capitalize on putative anger towards men. Whether this James Pattersonian model is correct, I leave to readers.

Of all the characters, Lacy’s obnoxious, protective brother comes across as the most real. He’s the one guy we can picture in a love/hate way. If all characters were constituted this well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Problem Number 3

Thrillers should feature thrills or at least suspense. At no time did I believe the heroine’s life was in danger. Her one brush with death came and went so suddenly, neither she nor we had time to fear for her.

Our disbarred lawyer Greg Myers disappears, presumed taken out by the bad guys. Then we’re told he might remain alive, sucking the air out of that danger. His girlfriend’s safety is more problematic, but that’s quickly resolved.

The tension ramps up a little regarding the whistle-blower. Thanks to the foresight of an alarm system and home security cameras, that risk proved minimal. It's no Pelican Brief.

The Firm set a high standard of suspense and tension. When people talk of an exciting Grisham novel, that’s the one that comes to mind. If The Whistler hadn’t been billed as a thriller and hadn’t overhyped superlatives of corruption and badness, it would fall comfortably in the drama arena. As it’s presently marketed, it’s a thriller absent of thrills.

The Grisham We Know and Love

But wait, all is not lost. It’s still an interesting read and Grisham gives us a little of the social commentary he’s noted for, particularly about Florida’s death penalty, which sounds much like my own writings.

Grisham briefly describes Florida’s Starke death row (there’s a self-descriptor!) where 400 men are warehoused in 6×9×9 un-air-conditioned cells, designed to make their remaining time on Earth as miserable as possible.
“Only California had more men on death row than Florida. Texas was a close third, but since it was more focused on keeping its numbers down, its population was around 330, give or take. California, which little interest in executing people, had 650. Florida longed to be another Texas, but its appellate courts kept getting in the way. Last year, 2010, only one man was lethally injected in Starke.”

“Total isolation leads to sensory deprivation and all sorts of mental problems. Corrections experts were just beginning to recognize this, and a movement to reform the practice of solitary confinement was struggling to gain momentum. Said movement had not made it to Florida.”
I’ve touched upon my AmerInd background and mentioned my parents’ disdain for the politically correct ‘Native American’ and ‘Indigenous American’ labels. Grisham is more comfortable writing about First Nation people than many writers. My family couldn’t have agreed more with his observation.
“The term ‘Native American’ is a politically correct creation of clueless white people who feel better using it, when in reality the Native Americans refer to themselves as Indians and snicker at those of us who don’t.”
I award The Whistler a 6.9.

Your View

Have you read The Whistler? What is your opinion?

29 September 2016

Treason's True Bed

by Eve Fisher

I don't know how many of you have heard of Marissa Alexander, of Florida. She was sentenced to 20 years in 2012 after firing a single gunshot at the ceiling of her home in an attempt to scare her estranged husband, Rico Gray.  Right before she did this, Alexander had locked herself in the bathroom; Gray broke through, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her into the broken door.  She tried to escape through the garage, but the garage door wouldn't open.  She grabbed her gun from the car and went back in the house.  When Gray saw Alexander with a gun, he “charged her ‘in a rage,’ saying, ‘Bitch, I'll kill you.’”  She shot the gun at the ceiling, he backed off, no one was harmed.

"Safe enough for babies" - I know, irrelevant,
but I couldn't resist.  
Now before this incident, Gray had previously tried to choke her, strangle her, regularly threatened to kill her, shoved her around, and hospitalized her.  She'd gotten a restraining order against him.  She was charged with 3 counts of aggravated assault, and claimed immunity under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (SYG) law.  But judge denied her immunity, and a jury sentenced her to TWENTY YEARS IN PRISON.  She appealed and was granted a new trial due to erroneous jury instructions; she is currently freed; but throughout, the court reaffirmed that she couldn't claim SYG as a defense.

You may be wondering, what the hell????

Back in 2005, Florida became the first state to adopt a SYG law.  Based on British common law on self-defense, SYG eliminates the duty to retreat when using self-defense and expands the “Castle Doctrine.”  BUT SYG specifically denies people prosecutorial immunity under SYG if “[t]he person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, [or] residence . . . such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision of no contact order against that person.”   (Much of this comes from the American Criminal Review.)

In case you're wondering, the NRA helped write Florida’s SYG law; and most SYG laws are based on Florida's.  (See - We Helped Draft It" here)  Now the NRA will tell you that SYG allows women to protect themselves from rapists, etc.  But that's only from rapists who are strangers.  If you know them - well, you're gonna have to figure something else out.  
NERD NOTE:  82% of women who have been raped were raped by someone they knew; only 18% by a stranger.  (See Rape Statistics here)
So, despite the fact that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence than of stranger-danger, 82% v. 18%, those violent partners are the specific people women are not allowed to defend themselves against under SYG.  BTW, the NRA specifically helped write it this way.  

So, okay, you might say, all they have to do is get a protective order.  Yeah, well, only 28% of female victims get one.  Most victims of domestic violence are afraid, desperately afraid.  And rightly so. I've seen cases where the man waited until the woman came out of the courthouse and either killed her in the parking lot and/or followed her to her next destination and beat the crap out of her and/or killed her.  (Marissa Alexander HAD a protective order, and was STILL denied SYG.)

And it's not just Marissa Alexander.  Take a gander at this blog from Patheos listing dozens of horrendous but true examples of women trying to defend themselves and/or their families, and ending up in prison:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2016/08/why-is-the-nra-ignoring-this-14-year-old-girl-jailed-for-shooting-her-abusive-father.html

What in the holy hell is going on?  Well, for one thing, the NRA has consistently opposed revoking a person's 2nd Amendment Rights (i.e., the right to own a gun) just because they have been convicted of domestic violence, no matter how heinous and disturbing.  And most people who have been convicted of domestic violence and/or have protection orders against them are, sadly, male.  
Clarence Thomas official SCOTUS portrait.jpg
SCJ Clarence Thomas
NOTE 1:  To be fair, the NRA is beginning to walk back a tiny, tiny, tiny bit on the issue of convicted domestic abusers, mostly because (1) Women have been raising holy hell about it; and   (2) women vote; and (3) a high-profile executive of the NRA was in a high-profile domestic abuse case, and the publicity fall-out was bad.  BUT - it's still only a little walking back - the NRA still opposes expanded background checks, opposes including things like stalking under "domestic abuse", and opposes giving abused women SYG rights.  (It also depends on the state) 
NOTE 2: It also depends on the judge:  In February, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke for the first time in 10 years from the bench - to protest against making a “misdemeanor violation of domestic conduct... result in a lifetime ban on possession of a gun, which, at least as of now, is still a constitutional right.”  (See here)  
So what is going on?  Why don't women have the same rights to SYG when their lives are threatened, even if it is a domestic partner?  

I think it all goes back to the olden days, when British common law said that acts of petty treason were: 
  • a wife killing her husband, (no matter what the reason)
  • a clergyman killing his prelate (i.e., superior)
  • a servant killing his master or mistress, or his master's wife
And notice this little detail:

A man (clergyman/servant) convicted of petty treason was punished with hanging.
A woman convicted of petty treason was punished by being burned at the stake.

A significant difference in punishment level even back then, wouldn't you agree?

This significant difference in punishment level still holds true:

"The average prison sentence for men who kill their intimate partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are sentenced, on average, to 15 years." (University of Michigan study here)  

Stand your ground?  If only they could...  





07 February 2016

Florida News

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard Tis Febrrruary, the season of hearts and flowers, of birds and bullets and funeral bowers.

Wait! What? Ah, it’s Florida and long past time we caught up with the happenings in the nation’s maddest state.

Till Death Do Us Part

Milton, FL.  You’ve turned thirty and finally found that special someone. What can be more romantic than a marriage and honeymoon in Florida? That’s what a couple planned, a pair who made their living invading homes, kidnapping, robbing, and stealing cars. This darling duo made their way to the Sunshine State where they parted in a blaze of hyperbole… or perhaps a little less. Self-styled Bonnie and Clyde, Brittany Harper and Blake Fitzgerald, eloped on a crime spree from Joplin, Missouri through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, then Perry, Georgia before they ended up in a shootout in the northwest corner of the Florida panhandle. Bonnie survived, Clyde did not.

Don’t Mess With Mom

Hialeah, FL.  Armed carjackers, frustrated when one woman simply drove away, tried to steal another woman’s car with her two children in back. Mom tore one guy out of the driver’s seat, ripped off his face mask, and was about to kick his ass when they sensibly, if belatedly ran off. Notice the lady’s mother-hen strut as if defying them to return.


Everyone Knows It Takes a DeLorean

Pensacola, FL.  Dude in his muscle car hit subsonic speeds and crashed through walls of a tax business and a casket company, the latter a thoughtful touch in case something went dreadfully wrong. The driver told police he was trying to accelerate fast enough to time travel. Methinks he’ll get plenty of time.


Judge Not Lest…

Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Lest ye be judged, according to Matthew, Matthew Destry, circuit judge in Broward County. A character in my story ‘Swamped’ was based on a real judge, albeit an unstable one, not unlike this man of the bench. In Lauderdale, Judge Destry is known for his wild and unusually harsh sentences.
  • A defendant was hospitalized at the time because of a suicide attempt. The judge tore up the woman’s plea agreement of one year, and sentenced her to ten years for missing a court date.
  • Destry has a reputation for severely punishing defendants who ask for trials rather than seek plea deals. The judge gave a sixty-year sentence to a non-violent felon on parole stopped for a suspended driver’s license, having tinted windows and a loaded magazine (but no gun) found in a car. Sixty years.
  • The judge also has a reputation for arbitrary pettiness. Known for starting his day late, he kept staff, witnesses, and lawyers in court until nearly midnight on Halloween, denying families the right to spend the evening with their kids.
  • Strangest of all, he allowed one prosecutor to sit on a jury in the same trial his fellow prosecutor was litigating. In most places that’s called a conflict of interest.
Eat Smart at WalMart

Lecanto, FL.  Poor WalMart is unfairly targeted for the weird people who hang out there. Too few stories reach the liberal press about its fine dining opportunities– wine, sushi, rotisserie chicken, and delicious hot cinnamon rolls, all with comfortable seating plus a uniformed chauffeur, courtesy of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Department. That’s what happened when a woman, high on meth and mad with munchies, appropriated a motorized cart and raided the food aisles, scarfing down the good stuff. I trust she chose a lively sauvignon blanc for the sushi.

Tastes Like Chicken

Melbourne, FL.  A burglar managed to elude police, but he couldn’t escape destiny. He stumbled into the quiet cove of an annoyed alligator in the unfortunately named Barefoot Bay Lake. Said burglar is no more.

Dr. No, No, No

Boca Raton, FL.  Professor James Tracy is a Sandy Hook shooting denier, as well as a 9/11 denier and even a JFK assassination skeptic. According to him, it’s all part of an Obama conspiracy, but the sad part has been his harassment of the little victims’ “alleged parents” (in his vernacular). Florida Atlantic University finally had enough and fired him. The conspiracy reached far vaster proportions than the professor imagined– everybody detests him.

Electric Hybrid Vehicle

Crystal River, FL.  Dude got pulled over although he was far below the speed limit… and below the door sill of an SUV and below the “You have to be this tall” signs in theme parks. The little feller was only three, but he handled his big rig better than motorists from Boston, New York, Canfield, Ohio and that Back-to-the-Future musclehead above.

That’s the news from the Sunstroke State.

13 September 2015

The Law is an Ass

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard
“The law is a ass” runs the famous quotation by the beadle Bumble (I’ll probably never get another opportunity to write that phrase) in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, chapter 51 (or this squib in context). The sentiment is about the only agreement we find in the comeuppance of the unpleasant Mr. Bumble. Time has repeatedly proven the maxim.

Last year, we mentioned Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi attempted to stop a lesbian couple’s divorce. Not good for family values, see. Barbie Doll Bondi is the same AG who schedules her executions around cocktails.

Asinine is from the Latin for 'ass' and to be sure, Florida is loaded with asinine laws. You may remember we re-elected as governor the perpetrator of the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history. It’s sadly ironic in so many ways that this governor has been a most ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, turning down billions in federal aid to 800,000 of the state’s needy. But you don’t have to oppose ObamaCare to appreciate the irony that Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet (including Pam Bondi) pay only $8.34 a month for individual heath coverage. Our multi-millionaire governor shells out only $30 a month to cover his family of five. The poor need not apply.

As you already know, Florida originated the asinine Shoot First / Stand Your Ground law which supplanted the far more sensible Castle Defense. Now we have a ‘Gun Gag’ law, also called Docs versus Glocks, which forbids physicians from enquiring about guns in the home, even if, say a child, is obviously wounded by a gunshot.

It’s like the story about a poacher who sought medical treatment after a hunting accident. The man said, “Doc, I got run through by a tree branch.” The doctor looked closely at the wound and said, “Really? What calibre?”

In 2001, the governor and legislature proudly enacted the Scarlet Letter law (Florida Statute §63.088, voted for and passed by two present presidential candidates). Intentionally intended to humiliate, the statute required single women who wanted to put a child up for adoption to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper, not just once, but weekly for a month, paid for by the women themselves. The law compelled them to provide details about their sexual encounters including names of sex partners, physical descriptions (height, weight, hair and eye color), dates and locations. The law provided no exceptions for minors or victims of rape. Sensible liberals and conservatives came together to oppose the law and in 2003, the act was declared unconstitutional and repealed.

The Florida legislature decided it would be a genius idea to label sexual offenders as such on their driver's license so that they couldn't, say, visit Walt Disney World. Except the slot allocated on the Florida drivers licenses shares the same field as organ donor and glasses requirements. What could go wrong?

Florida was hardly done meddling in sex. This year we outdid ourselves with an act barring transsexuals from using public restrooms if their birth gender doesn’t match the picture on the door. Violation of this law, even in emergencies, can result in a year of incarceration although, in a twist of irony, the law doesn’t seem to specify men’s or women’s prison.

But wait, there’s more! Any non-transsexual who somehow discovers the chromosomes of the person in the stall next to them aren’t the same as their own may sue that person for emotional damages and attorneys fees. But stop! Florida law isn’t done. Said non-trans person may also sue the proprietor as well for damages and attorneys fees.

North Carolina postcard
But we’re not finished as we turn our attention to North Carolina.

An arrest in the Tar Heel State prompted today’s article. A minor charged as an adult is facing up to ten years in prison and registration as a sexual predator for having nude pictures of a minor on his cell phone.

Pictures of… himself.

Wait. Try to grasp that. Police are charging a boy as an adult for having naked photos of himself… because he’s a minor.

It’s like corrupting the morals… of himself. (His girlfriend was fined $200 for the same thing and does not have to register as an offender.)

Even though authorities have made his name and face public, the premise of this article is the law is an ass and it’s not up to me to disseminate his personal information. But even beadle Bumble could not have imagined such a plight.

08 February 2015

A Death a Day

by Leigh Lundin

Imagine a prison system in which a person a day diesone man every day of the year. This unsurprisingly takes place in a land with the highest incarceration rate in the world.

This isn’t North Korea or Iran.

Florida DoC
Hearses waiting at Florida DoC © WFSU
We’re talking Florida, a state that incarcerates 75% more per capita than the next highest competitor… Cuba.

We’re talking Florida’s lucrative privatized prison system in a land that competes in executions with Texas and a couple of other states, but this isn’t about capital punishment…

We’re talking about ordinary prisoners who hoped one day to get out but died at the hands of other prisoners or … commonly… prison guards. Indeed, a Santa Rosa Correctional Institute inmate complained in letters to his family and in legal filings he’d been sexually assaulted by guards and his life had been threatened if he talked. He talked. He died. And so have others.

FDLE Gerald Bailey
Gerald Bailey © Bill Cotterell
State Archives of Florida
Inmates have written their families that if they’re found dead, it wouldn’t be by suicide but homicide by guards, guards who obscure their name tags to evade identification, who inmates could only identify as, for example, Sgt. Q. Many prisoners have complained about being sexually assaulted and ‘gassed’ into compliance with a noxious chemical agent. State inspectors have investigated and found for the prisoners. Florida's death statistics are so far off that the US Department of Justice is now investigating.

In September, more than thirty guards were fired for sexual assault, physical abuse, starving, poisoning, gassing, or beating inmates to death and in one case, killing a prisoner who'd soiled himself by steaming him alive. The Governor’s office and the Attorney General dismissed the allegations. Not one guard has been arrested or indicted.

Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks prisoners deserve all they get. They deserve rancid, moldy, vermin-infested food. They deserve rape. They deserve beatings. And damn it, if they get killed in prison, they deserve that too. Or perhaps you simply believe in the right of a company to protect the bottom line and not the general population.

Because Florida

I staunchly support free enterprise, but there’s a problem here. Traditional prisons were subject to oversight by its citizens. Not now. A corporation owes responsibility only to its stock holders… and perhaps the political cronies who landed them the contract.

Beatings, rapes, and killings are taking place in your name and mine. Not everyone approves. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey thought that was a problem.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Fl. Gov. Rick Scott © Miami New Times
Governor Rick Scott disagreed. Because Florida, because America. Because of a governor who committed the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in the country, who’s never seen the inside of a prison although he deserved to.

Remember that name, Commissioner Gerald Bailey, the head of Florida’s law enforcement. Because Rick Scott brought the private sector corruption he was infamous for into the public realm.

Good Cop, Bad SOP

Under Bailey, the FDLE was investigating those suspicious prison inmate deaths, assisted the search for juvenile remains at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, and was looking into the destruction of emails following Scott’s transition into office in 2010. The Governor was not pleased.

“The most shocking thing was being ordered to target another individual without any justification. I don't know why this woman was in the cross hairs.”
FDLE's Gerald Bailey
The governor’s office, in an attempt to deflect criticism of the prison system under the governor’s control, instructed Bailey to frame an Orange County Clerk of Court, stating she was the target of criminal investigation who allowed inmates to use forged papers from her office. Bailey refused, saying she wasn’t a suspect at all: the forged papers came out of the prison complex. A governor’s press aide asked Bailey if he was refusing a direct order, to which Bailey replied in the affirmative. The Governor was not pleased.

The Governor’s office expressed concerns that State Representative Alan Williams of Tallahassee was fomenting student sit-ins at the state capitol and asked Bailey’s office to keep them posted about Williams’ activities in incidents reports. Williams complained he was politically targeted and singled out by name, and that the governor’s office was trying to shape the protests as being organized not by students but by his political opposition.

After the FDLE discovered a Los Angeles criminal investigation of a Scott campaign donor and Miami businessman suspected of money laundering, a man the governor wanted to groom for a political appointment, Rick Scott personally asked Bailey to help bring the investigation to a close. Bailey refused to get involved. The Governor was not pleased.

Bailey received solicitations to contribute to the governor’s campaign through the state’s email system. Bailey informed the governor’s legal counsel this was inappropriate, in fact, illegal. The governor’s office said “Then ignore it. Delete it.” Bailey pointed out to the governor’s lawyer that’s illegal too: You can’t lawfully delete official communications from state computers. The Governor was not pleased.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Scott © ABC News
In his first weeks in office, Governor Scott worked with the new legislature to pass a bill legalizing illegal campaign donations. At the time called a “Whore of Babylon” by a St. Petersburg Times reporter, they okayed payoffs, directing them into a political slush fund, a corrupt practice that had been banned two decades earlier.

The governor ordered Bailey to a summer conference for Scott’s election campaign. Bailey refused, saying it was inappropriate for a law officer to engage in partisan politics. The Governor was not pleased.

The governor continued to treat the FDLE as his own private security force. His campaign instructed the Department of Law Enforcement to provide transportation for campaign workers. Bailey’s office refused, saying their sole responsibility was the safety of the governor and first lady, not campaign staffers. Bailey also refused a $90 000 check from Scott’s campaign, saying it wasn’t appropriate for law enforcement to accept funds from a political party. The Governor was not pleased.

Governor Fires Chief Cop For Not Breaking The Law

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott © Politico
Scott calls the above incidents ‘petty’. So petty he fired the FDLE head, Gerald Bailey.

What hasn’t been mentioned here is that the FDLE reports not only to the governor, but also three cabinet members. Governor Jeb Bush and the three cabinet members unanimously voted Gerald Bailey into the post nineteen years ago and presumably only the cabinet can fire him. None of the cabinet apparently took part in Bailey’s termination as required by Florida law. Rick Scott merely says they didn’t object.

I’ll give the last word to former FDLE commissioner Jim York. He said the firing could create a lasting perception that politics has compromised the independence of the agency amid investigations of corruption.
“If it’s perceived that the agency is under the thumb of any politician, particularly this governor, it’s going to be devastating to the morale of the agents. They wouldn’t be interested in doing investigations where they felt that the governor was looking over their shoulder, looking out for his donor friends.”
Thus we have further corruption in the Governor’s office and prisoners dying at the rate of one a day.

What is your take?

02 November 2014

Florida News, Crime and Politics Edition

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard
The Murder that Wasn’t

Orlando, FL   After rescuers pulled the body of Miss Hien Tran from her car, police investigators believed she’d been stabbed and her throat cut. It would turn out not to be a murder case at all. When the mail arrived a week later, the homicide investigation turned into a different case altogether.

The mail came from Honda, the manufacturer of her car and it announced the Japanese maker of the airbags, Takata, was making a recall because of bodily injuries. That may come as some small comfort to her family.

Oddly, the recall isn’t universal, but based on geography. The hypothesis is that the airbags may be affected by heat and humidity. That’s a relief because Northerners, aka snowbirds, never drive their Toyotas and Hondas to Florida.

Old Flame

Clearwater, FL   In the heat of alcohol-fueled passion, the light of his life set Carlos Ortiz on fire… literally. Using nail polish remover and a lighter, the saucy but incensed woman lit a fire under her smokin’ hot man in a case of spaghetti scorned.

Too Hunky to Resist

Deltona, FL   The fat hit the fire when a very naked quarter-tonner fan of quarter-pounders found himself under arrest after his girlfriend called police to report he was drunk and abusive. The 500-pound man was too big to fit into a police car. Instead, he sat on the ground and refused to move. Police are no dummies. They somehow wrestled him into a transport van. No word if a forklift was required.

Pam Bondi, Attorney General
Pam Bondi, Attorney General
The Irony Maiden

Tallahassee, FL   No matter which side of the same-sex marriage debate you’re on, you’ve got to find this headline head-spinningly paradoxical:


See, our governor, legislature, and pin-up Attorney General Pam Bondi strongly oppose gay marriage. But… they even more vociferously oppose gay divorce. Not good for family values, see.

I get it, but it makes my head hurt. Oh, by the way, Pam Bondi is the politician who postponed a scheduled execution so she could hit the campaign trail, putting duty second or third or fourth. This could seriously jeopardize Florida's claim as The Execution State.

The Largest Medicare/Medicaid Fraud in History

Tallahassee, FL   Typically when people claim this politician or that is a crook, they mean it more or less figuratively. In the case of our Florida governor Rick Scott, it’s literally fact, as noted by the FBI and attested to by Rudy Giuliani and reported by (gasp!) Fox News. Why this election is neck and neck or that Scott won election the first time beggars belief, but after the $1.7-billion fine for Medicare and Medicaid fraud (he's only opposed to heath care if he can't profit from it), Rick Scott needed a job and had personal millions left over to buy himself a governorship with Tea Party support that steamrolled over Florida's GOP. And he may do it again.

If at first you don’t secede…

Eve Fisher or David Edgerly Gates might provide pithy insights (no, I’m not lisping), but I find it amazing those who brag the loudest about their fulminating love of America are the same folks who want to break up the Union when they don't get their way. (See Eve’s recent articles on revolutions.) Here in Florida, we have two proposals.

Pensacola, FL   The first proposal is to annex Georgia and South Carolina, the heart of the Old South, and break away into a confederate nation called Reagan, as if the great communicator himself wouldn’t be horrified. Longitudinally, at least, they couldn’t get much farther to the right.

Miami, FL   The other proposal is to split Florida into two states, diagonally (sort of). The impetus comes from the inattentiveness and failure of Tallahassee (read: governor and legislature) to take global warming seriously. The City of South Miami has set forth a resolution that before Miami and the Keys sink beneath the waves, they take their own measures and let Tallahassee do what it will– or won’t. I live a few hundred metres from the new state line, which could make things interesting.



As usual, suspects and accused are deemed innocent until proven guilty.

22 June 2014

There was a Crooked Village

by Leigh Lundin

Little Stomping

Picture a village whose reason for being is a criminal enterprise. Imagine its entire raison d’être, its very existence hinges upon fleecing the public. Typical of such towns, as many as one in fifteen to twenty of residents– men, women, children and chickens– are part of its politico-judicial machinery: crooked cops, municipal machinators, and corrupt clerks.

And not ordinary crooked cops, but heavily armed with the latest in high-power assault weaponry and shiny pursuit vehicles. Police– poorly trained but still police– yet some may not have been certified officers at all. One fancied himself Rambo and stopped tourists with an AR-15 slung across his chest like that inbred couple in Open Carry Texas.

Village authorities arbitrarily moved town limit signs beyond the actual town’s boundaries in a bid to increase exposure to radar patrol… and revenues. When cops sat in lawn chairs aiming their radar guns and sipping from their open containers, they turned a blind eye to the citizens who dried their marijuana in the convenience store’s microwave. Oh, and those shiny police cars? The town often didn’t bother to insure them, this in a village where the police department wrote more tickets than Fort Lauderdale but still outspent its budget.

speed trap
First of three speed traps in
a 20 mile stretch of US 301.
AAA believed to sponsor sign.
Speed Trap

Set this supposition aside for the moment.

When I was a kid who couldn't yet drive, a short story left an impression on me. The plot centered around a man traveling to Florida who was caught in a small town speed trap. The police tossed him in jail.

Andy Griffith they weren't: they kept him imprisoned as the authorities systematically drained his assets like a spider sucks juices from a fly. Who do you turn to when the law is corrupt?

Florida sunshine has always attracted northerners during the icy winter months. In the first half of the 20th century, snowbirds filtered south through the highways and byways of America. Before the 1950s, towns and villages in the arteries of early tourism discovered they could make money fleecing tourists  passing through their area.
Lawtey, Hampton, Waldo
Lawtey, Hampton, Waldo speed traps
 
US 301
US 301: Jacksonville ↔ Gainesville
Atlantic at right, Georgia border at top


Some places in the Deep South considered northern travelers carpetbaggers and therefore fair game. Even so, town fathers and others found it easy to offset moral compunctions when considering the sheer profit involved. Could they help it if a Yankee ran a stop sign obscured by tree branches or failed to notice the speed limit abruptly changed from 55 to 25?

Where’s Waldo?

In the tiny towns of Lawtey, Hampton, and Waldo, that’s exactly what happens as the speed limits bounce every block or so from 55 to 30 to 45 to 25 and back again. If you have the time and patience, you might try locking your cruise control in at 25mph, hoping to beat the system. But they have an answer for that too– tickets for failing to maintain a safe speed.

In the early 1990s, it dawned on Hampton that nearby US 301 was an untapped piggy bank with the emphasis on piggy. The highway had been a source of resentment when it passed within a few hundred metres of the town limits, but devious minds found a way to make the road pay. The village annexed a strip of land 420 yards (384 metres) along the federal highway and began hiring candidates for police officers. Hampton’s speed trap was born.
(See maps below.)

In a state with a governor who committed the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history, it takes a lot to outrage the Florida Legislature, but over time, Hampton succeeded. Their downfall started when they had the audacity to ticket State Representative Charles van Zant. Thanks to him, Florida lawmakers drew up plans to revoke the city's charter and revert the village to an unincorporated plat of county land.

Hampton with annex
Hampton with annex
Hampton with annex
Hampton
The events that set Hampton above (or below?) its speed trap neighbors, Lawtey and Waldo, is the corruption that took place off the highway. The village can’t account for monies in the high six-figures while at the same time failing to provide basic maintenance and repairs. Under one free-spending family that ‘managed’ the little city, it ran up large debts at local stores and on the municipal credit card.

While the town failed to properly bill residents for the water utility, the clerk collected cash– Sorry, no receipts. The water department can’t reconcile nearly half of the water actually distributed, telling auditors the records were “lost in a swamp.” And if residents complained about inefficiency and corruption, their water supply was cut off altogether, prompting Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith to refer to the situation as “Gestapo in Hampton.

As CNN suggested, the town became too corrupt even for Florida to stomach. State and federal auditors agreed and wheels started turning to unincorporate the town and strip it of its charter. The road to perdition seemed inevitable.

Road to Recovery

But not everyone saw it that way. Once corrupt authorities slunk back into the shadows, good citizens of Hampton stepped forward. A former clerk took over the reins. A new resident made plans to run for mayor, replacing the current mayor who resigned from his jail cell. Volunteers put together a plan to bring the town into compliance and moreover, they acted upon it. Among other things, the town plans to de-annex the strip of land encompassing US 301 although the ‘handle’ part of the town’s griddle shape will remain.

At present, efforts to revoke the town’s charter remain in abeyance and it looks like the town may have saved itself. We can only wish legislators had the political gumption to rid the state of speed traps altogether in places like Waldo, Lawtey, and Windemere.

Short Story Bonus

And, in case you were wondering, Jacksonville is probably not named after Shirley Jackson, despite her [in]famous short story about a small town. Read it on-line | download eBook PDF | download audiobook.

12 January 2014

Florida News– Officialdum

by Leigh Lundin

Florida postcard
Not Just California

Last month, I wrote about a California kid who, after killing four people in a drunk driving accident, was deemed too rich for prison. A reader brought to my attention that something very similar happened not so long ago here in Florida. Jewelry scion Ryan LeVin killed two British visitors with his Porsche 911, then fled the scene and later attempted to blame a friend for the deaths. Apparently, LeVin paid off the widows and, instead of a thirty-year term, a judge sentenced him to two years home confinement in his parents’ ocean-side homes. (That’s homes, plural.) As The Pulp reported at the time, "He got grounded."

Get-Out-of-Jail Card

You may have read about convicted murderers Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins who used law library-forged release papers to walk out of prison. To further the deception, they actually registered as ex-felons at the Orange County Jail.

This was not the first time it's happened in Florida. In fact, the mastermind behind the escape, Nydeed Nashaddai, engineered his own short-lived escape five years earlier.

Icy Day in Hell / Hellish Day in ICE

With multiple airports and seaports, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expend a lot of resources in Florida. Unfortunately, some agents are open for business.

Pay-Your-Own

I nearly missed a re-election footnote and plan to write more about this later. One out of every 14,600 citizens of Duval County is on death row, the highest of any county in America. Like other counties around the nation with staggering death penalty prosecutions, this court district also has high incidence of prosecutorial misconduct.

You may not have heard that Florida elects public defenders, yet Matt Shirk ran for (and won) re-election with three planks in his platforms: (a) pledging not to take a confrontational stance with law enforcement, (b) cutting public funding for the defender’s office in a district in a state with one of the highest number of capital cases, and (c) billing defendants who are acquitted for legal services. In other words, the state prosecutes an innocent person and then sends that person a bill if they’re not guilty. And if a defense attorney isn’t supposed to challenge authorities, who is?

But Matthew Shirk did one thing more. One of his first acts in office was to fire attorneys who’d exposed public corruption. I might express dismay, but it’s a bit overshadowed by our dear governor.

From the Governor’s Office


It’s ironic the man who committed the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in history worries about welfare fraud. No one wants to give hand-outs to drug addicts, but the Florida governor and legislature decided it would be a fine idea to skip probable cause and make pay-in-advance drug-testing mandatory for welfare recipients. Politicians intimated they would weed out at least 20% and possibly more than 50% of recipients. If you’re indigent, you might not have a spare $25-45 to pay for the test, even though the governor promised to reimburse those found drug free, which turned out to be a much greater amount than insinuated.

When opponents weren’t able to defeat the bill, they moved to make drug-testing of candidates for state office mandatory. Politicians and drugs? Oddly enough, lawmakers and the governor decided testing politicians was not a fine idea. One legislator said requiring him to pee in a cup like everyone else would violate his constitutional rights.

The much ballyhooed double digits figure of drug-infested welfare queens turned out to be less than 2%, far below the average population (8.9%) and 18-to-25-year-olds (21.5%).. A U.S. District Court has now ruled the law unconstitutional. Naturally, the governor will waste more money in appeals.