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

28 August 2018

Rounding Things Out


A few nights ago as I was brushing my teeth, I glanced at the calendar hanging on my bathroom door. It was about eleven p.m. As I focused on the date, a memory flashed through my mind, and I realized to my horror that I had one hour left of being young.
You see, when the clock struck midnight, I was to turn forty-nine-and-a-half years old, which meant I would be entering ... my rounding years. You've never heard of rounding years? Well, allow me to enlighten you.

It was December 1978. I was nine years old and had been working on a family newspaper all that autumn. It was filled with juicy stories including:

  • Was there some sort of connection between my father and maternal grandfather besides marriage? After all, they both had a growth on their nose in the exact same spot. I know--it's spooky right? Or was it nefarious?
  • One of my brothers had been banned from Idaho after being caught speeding there. In a response to the editor, the subject of the story claimed he had been misunderstood, but this reporter stands by her story. His exact quote: "I can't go back there."
  • My mother was always rushing around. She would always know if she had somewhere to go and could get there without stress if she left early enough. But she always left late so everything was a big rush. This was more a feature piece, since it certainly wasn't news to anyone in the family. Everyone knew.

I typed the newspaper on a typewriter just like this one.
 And then there was the story that sparked this trip down Memory Lane. The article about my dad entering his rounding years. You see, when I was young I was a black-or-white kind of girl. You either lived in the city or the country.  You either were rich or poor. And you either were young or old. I clung to this worldview despite that we lived in the suburbs, were (upper) middle-class, and my parents were middle-aged. As Dad was approaching age fifty, I knew that old age was coming for him. But it felt odd to me that one second you could be young and the next second you could be old. Since I didn't grasp the concept of middle-age, I came up with my own idea: rounding years.

Here's how it works: Up to age forty-nine and a day less than six months, you are young. (Woo-hoo!) Then bam! You hit forty-nine-and-a-half and you've entered this period where your body starts wearing out. (I was nine and didn't really think this through, but let's say that during this time your hair turns gray, your bones start to creak, and you start saying "oof" when you sit down.) You get two full years to slowly turn old. Then when you reach the ripe age of fifty-one-and-a-half, bam again! You are old. It's all down hill from there.

Why did I choose a two-year period from forty-nine-and-a-half to fifty-one-and-a-half? Beats me. I was nine years old and clearly had way too much time on my hands. Plus an active imagination.

So you'll have to bear with me from here on out if I start getting nostalgic for an earlier time or begin doing things that are quirky. (Okay, fine. Quirkier.) I'm no longer young, you see. I'm rounding things out.

But I stand by that Idaho story. It was spot on.

*******

And now, for a little BSP:

Next week I'll be heading to the Bouchercon mystery convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, along with several other SleuthSayers. If you too will be there, I'd love to see you. Here's my schedule:
  • I'll be participating in a mass panel/signing for the new Bouchercon anthology, Florida
    Pot roast, anyone?
    Happens
    , on Thursday, Sept. 6th at 1 p.m. The book is scheduled to be released next Tuesday, the 4th. It includes stories by fellow SleuthSayers John Floyd and Paul D. Marks, as well as my newest story, "The Case of the Missing Post Roast." The reviews coming in have been excellent. Publisher's Weekly said in part, "These 21 tales are testimony to the wealth of notable crime fiction rooted in the Sunshine State." The amazing Hank Phillippi Ryan called the book, "As crazy-unpredictable as a Florida vacation! These short-story gems are quirky, surprising, original and irresistible. It's a collaboration of mystery rock stars that's absolutely terrific." You can pre-order a copy now by clicking here. Or if you'll be at Bouchercon, you can buy a copy there and come to the signing. 
  • At six p.m. on Thursday, I'll be at opening ceremonies, where (among other things) the winners for this year's Macavity Award will be announced. My story "Whose Wine Is It Anyway?" is a finalist in the short-story category, along with stories by fellow SleuthSayers Paul D. Marks and Art Taylor, as well as stories by Craig Faustus Buck, Matt Coyle, and Terence Faherty.
  • On Friday the 7th at 1 p.m. I'll be on a panel with my fellow nominees for this year's Anthony Award in the short-story category. I'm honored to share finalist honors this year with Susanna Calkins, Jen Conley, Hilary Davidson, Debra H. Goldstein, and fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor. If you haven't read the six nominated stories, it's not too late. They're all online. Click here and you'll find links to reach them all. Read before you vote!
  • On Saturday the 8th at 7 p.m. I'll be at the presentation for the Anthony Award.
Fingers crossed on multiple fronts! I hope to see you there.

12 May 2018

INTERVIEW: Alex Segura on BLACKOUT, Outlines and Writing the PI


I don’t remember how I met Alex, but when we did meet, over Twitter, we clicked immediately. We both wrote PI novels and shared a love of the Talking Heads and the Replacements. So when he invited me to read at Noir at the Bar (a series I have desperately wanted to be part of for years) I felt like I had finally made it as a mystery writer.

As you do at readings, I bought everyone’s books, and read his Silent City first. I was instantly sucked into Pete Fernandez’s world, right alongside him as he worked to solve the case of a missing journalist and the shadowy figure who haunted his detective father’s own caseload.

Blackout, Segura’s latest book, finds Fernandez, a Miami native, now living an isolated life in New York, pulled back to Miami after a politician hires him to find his wayward son in a case that connects to one Fernandez botched years ago. “He sees it as this opportunity to fix his mistake,” said Segura. “There are a lot of parallels to his recovery and embracing life.”

Though Segura started out in comics, rising through the ranks at DC to become the Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing and the editor of Archie imprint Dark Circle Comics, (to which he contributed Archie Meets Kiss and Archie Meets the Ramones) he soon turned to crime fiction. “When your hobby becomes your day job, you need a new hobby,” he said. “I started reading the classics – Chandler, McDonald – but what I really liked were the more contemporary ones, like George Pelecanos, Lawrence Block and Dennis Lehane.”

He was drawn to the “textured, messed up,” protagonist over the Golden Age detectives. “I didn’t want to write the detective with the fedora and then the dame walks in,” he said. “I love the enterprising hero who doesn’t have the resources of the police or the FBI. He’s chosen to do things on his own.”

23 July 2017

Florida News, Moral Retardation


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.

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 ƒ-tards 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 final 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 itself, 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?

09 October 2016

The Fantôme


Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew
My SleuthSayers colleagues became a comforting presence as Florida braced for a hurricane that had already killed 800 people in Haiti. Fortunately my area was spared with little more damage than downed limbs and a 13-hour loss of power.

Fixed in my mind was 2004 when four major hurricanes attacked Florida. Three of them impacted me personally but I came out of them with the most important thing, bodily intact.

One other positive grew out of the devastation. Enduring endless hours without electricity, with canyons lined with debris and so many fallen trees that roads remained blocked for days and weeks, I began to write.

For this Hurricane Matthew, preparations included food, water, batteries, and propane for cooking on the grill with my friend Thrush. About the time SleuthSayers started, fellow mystery author Susan Slater moved from New Mexico to St. Augustine two miles from the ocean, well within reach of the winds and surge zone. She retreated to stay with friends on higher ground. Another friend and writer, Claire Poulsen, abandoned Amelia Island for the safety of a cabin in North Carolina.

But when I think of hurricanes, I don’t think of my own experiences, fortunately dreadfully dull. Instead, other efforts come to mind.

Labor Day Hurricane

The building of the Florida East Coast Railway makes a fascinating tale involving ingenious engineers, incredibly brave laborers, and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit.

During construction, hurricanes struck in the late 1800s, then again in 1906 and 1909. I have been unable to identify the date, but one of the stories involved a rescue train chased by a ’cane that didn’t take the time to turn around. The train raced up the coast backwards to avoid the deadly winds.

In testament to the careful planning and design, the current US 1 Overseas Highway is partly built on footings constructed more than a century ago. The FECR sold the right-of-way to the State of Florida for pennies on the dollar following the deadly Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the one described by Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo.

Castaway Cay
Hurricane Floyd

The incredible engineering of a century ago was brought home in a personally observed way. Disney Cruise Line leases Castaway Cay (formerly Gordo Cay) from the Bahamian government. In taking over the private island, Disney built a pier its ships can sidle against so that passengers can come and go using gangways rather than tenders.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd swept through the Bahamas. Disney evacuated the island of the few dozen resident cast members (employees). It was with trepidation a team returned to the island where they found two surprises.

Voices in the Dark
In my teens, it was ‘a thing’ to visit the airport at night where we could stand out on a deck with our dates, cuddling and watching flights coming and going. Well, mostly cuddling but we could tune in speakers to listen to air traffic controllers in flat, unemotional voices direct planes amid hand-offs with ground control.

NASA flight controllers use similar restrained, equable commands and commentary during launches and landings. Those passionless voices sends chills when listening to the unforgettable recordings from the takeoff of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the fiery disintegration of Columbia over Texas.
The buildings remained largely intact and most of the wind destruction involved little more than shingles and lounge chairs. The real surprise was the pier. That massive hunk of concrete and steel twisted up out of the seabed like a bitter joke. The storm surge made a mockery of our so-called ‘modern’ construction. Whereas hundreds of Flagler’s railroad foundations remain intact today, this present-day foundation ended up junk.

Hurricane Mitch

On 26 October 1998, I joined a consulting project with shore-based operations of Disney Cruise Line. The people I worked with were experienced ship’s officers, mostly captains extensively recruited from Europe and the US Coast Guard, plus a couple of South Africans and Australians. Unlike me, the other members were professional seamen.

The same day I started my job, Tropical Storm Mitch became Category 5 Hurricane Mitch heading toward Honduras. Unleashing twenty days of hell, it would become one of the most unpredictable of cyclonic storms, wreaking devastation through Central America, slugging Florida, then sailing across the Atlantic where it slapped the British Isles and Iceland. It would take 9000 lives, mostly in Central America. Thirty-one of those lives became of special interest.

Fantôme
The Fantôme (The Phantom)

The four-masted, steel-hulled Fantôme was a beautiful ship with a fascinating history. Purchased in 1927 by the Duke of Westminster, it was later acquired by the Guinness family. At the outbreak of WW-II, Ernest Guinness docked her in Seattle. There it remained until 1953 because of unpaid fees and taxes.

Aristotle Onassis, who would later marry Jackie Kennedy, purchased the yacht, renovated it, intending it as a wedding gift for Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gossip says the couple omitted Onassis from their guest list, forfeiting the lovely present. In 1969, the owner of Windjammer Cruises swapped a freighter for the schooner and spent another fortune, reportedly $6-million, refurbishing it as the Windjammer flagship.

The Wait

On 25 October, TS Mitch, a thousand miles distant, grew in strength and changed course toward Jamaica. As a precaution, Captain Guyan March dropped off the one-hundred passengers and ten non-essential crew at Belize City.

Based upon the latest models and frankly unpredictable storm path estimates, March headed north. The hurricane stopped dead. Then it turned. The Fantôme reversed south in efforts to dodge the onrushing storm apparently driving toward the Yucatán. The captain intended to shelter in the lee of Roatan, but Category 5 Mitch with winds of 300kmph (185mph, 162 knots) veered magnetically toward the ship. A desperate Fantôme turned eastward toward the open sea.

31 Souls

In the Disney Cruise Line offices in Celebration, Florida, the European staff had set up an espresso machine with a number of flavored syrups to supplement the coffee maker. The coffee station contained one other instrument, a shortwave radio.

Upon arrival, I found the professionals gathered around coffee and charts. While tracking the hurricane and the Fantôme, they listened in on the cat-and-mouse playing out in the wavebands of the radio, the coast guards in the flat tones of men aware lives were at stake.

The hurricane picked up her skirts, exchanging eye-wall speeds of 250kmph (155mph, 135 knots) for forward motion. About 16:30 on the 27th, the Fantôme relayed her position. As the storm center approached the vessel, the Fantôme radioed she was fighting winds of 100 knots and four-storey high seas. Five o’clock approached. Few standing around the radio moved to go home.

And then…

And then nothing. Silence. Not silence, but a repeating call into the abyss.

“Fantôme… S/V Fantôme… Fantôme…”

Through the next day. And the next.

“Fantôme… S/V Fantôme… Fantôme…”

Men wore hollow looks. Women blinked away tears.

“Fantôme… S/V Fantôme… Fantôme…”

Days passed. The hurricane swung north.

On 2 November as Mitch took aim at Florida, the British destroyer HMS Sheffield found life-preservers and rafts bearing the stamp S/V Fantôme floating off the coast of Guanaja.

The beautiful Phantom had vanished.

29 September 2016

Treason's True Bed


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


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.

22 February 2015

Songs of the South


Please not yet. Those are the three eternal words. Please not yet.
                                                John D. MacDonald
                                                A Deadly Shade of Gold

       As usual the month of February finds me on the gulf shore of Alabama, making a good on a promise my wife and I made to ourselves back when we were still in the work-a-day world: once we retired February would never again find us in Washington, D.C. So we have again traveled south to a rental on the shore. Not the tropics, but also not the frozen east coast of the past several weeks.

Harper Lee
     Alabama is a sort of exciting place for anyone interested in literature to find themselves this February. Only a few weeks ago, and a scant 100 miles north, Harper Lee, the now 88 year old author of the American Classic To Kill a Mockingbird announced to a stunned world that, after 55 years of literary silence, this summer a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning story of Scout, Atticus and the travails of small town life in Alabama will be published.

       Whether we should feel some trepidation as we await the return of Atticus and Scout in the long-withheld Go Set a Watchman has already been the subject of numerous articles. Far be it from me to add another. But aside from such speculations concerning the ultimate merit of the Mockingbird sequel, an interesting sidelight to the pending publication of Harper Lee’s second novel is the reaction of the reading public, which had become resigned to Lee’s oft-articulated position that she would never publish a second work. This had been both accepted and hard to get over -- we had fallen in love with Mockingbird -- and Lee’s resolve to leave it at that had left us feeling a bit like a child allowed but one toy. The anticipation has been overwhelming with the possibility of another now on the horizon. 

Arthur Conan Doyle
       A writer’s decision to not follow up on a popular book, or to end a popular series of books, often invites a public outcry. Famously, Arthur Conan Doyle found himself unable, in the face of such clamor, to leave Sherlock Holmes sprawled at the bottom of the Reichenbach Falls. Doyle (and now Lee) ultimately bent, in some degree, to the clamor. Doyle took up the pen again, and Lee's attorney discovered that previous manuscript. And just yesterday Arthur Conan Doyle had his own last laugh -- a similarly "lost" Sherlock Holmes story was discovered in an attic after lying there unnoticed for the past 111 years.

       But what happens when the series ends for reasons beyond the author’s ability to remedy; when the author is gone but nothing is left behind?  Since, as noted, I am gazing out toward the Gulf as I type, what could be more natural than to allow my gaze to linger off toward the east, where 17 miles away Florida beckons? And what is more “Florida” than John D. MacDonald and his iconic literary sidekick Travis McGee?

John D. MacDonald
       Okay, okay. I know there what you may be thinking. Does he intend to offer up as a premise a column that lumps Harper Lee -- a Pulitzer Prize winning (and beloved) artist -- with John D. MacDonald, the erstwhile paperback king who wrote almost 80 books over the course of a career that began in pulp fiction?  In a word:  Yep. But I'm not the only one who places MacDonald on a pretty high pedestal.  Back in 2003 Jonathan Yardley, literary critic for the Washington Post, went back to re-read MacDonald and came away incredulous, concluding that the body of work revealed the author as "one of the great characters in contemporary American fiction -- not crime fiction; fiction, period."  Yardley went on to explain:
This man whom I'd snobbishly dismissed as a paperback writer turned out to be a novelist of the highest professionalism and a social critic armed with vigorous opinions stingingly expressed. His prose had energy, wit and bite, his plots were humdingers, his characters talked like real people, and his knowledge of the contemporary world was -- no other word will do -- breathtaking.
       This is not the first time that I have offered up thoughts on MacDonald and McGee in this space. Unlike Harper Lee, who wrote but one book (now, two), John D. MacDonald (like Doyle) was prolific. He wrote almost 80 works of fiction and nonfiction, and 21 McGee novels before his sudden death in 1986. But he still left us hanging.  In the last of the Travis McGee series, The Lonely Silver Rain, McGee is confronted with several revelations (no further spoilers here!) but then, given MacDonald’s demise two years later, McGee’s fans are ultimately left to ponder where these revelations might have led.

       Like Harper Lee, whose sequel to Mockingbird was known by some friends to have existed, at least at one time, MacDonald, too, was rumored to have a final Travis McGee novel under lock and key.  I remember reading as much in a 1975 interview with MacDonald, and Stephen King has stated that before MacDonald's death he had discussed with King the backbone of what would be the final McGee adventure.  But all rumors of that final work, usually conjectured to bear the title A Black Border for McGee, were apparently baseless. MacDonald’s heirs have asserted that no such work exists, and have steadfastly refused all requests by other authors -- most notably one from Stephen King -- to continue (and properly end) the series. One caveat, here:  there is a little-known novel, The Black Squall, by Lori Stone, which sneaks around the heirs' prohibition by offering a final adventure clearly addressing what might have happened to Travis McGee and his friend Meyer, but doing so without ever using their actual names. But other than that, barring a Harper Lee, or Arthur Conan Doyle-like denouement -- a final work miraculously discovered -- that is it for McGee.

       So aside from The Black Squall (which, I admit, I have not read) the many fans of Travis McGee have had to look elsewhere over the last thirty years for a fix. And that has sparked a bit of a literary cottage industry among authors seeking to re-capture, and then offer to the reading public, the essence of McGee. 

       So, pause with me here. What, at base, is the Travis McGee formula?  What do readers look for in a Travis McGee novel?  The series evolved over time, but viewed in its entirety it seems to me MacDonald's McGee adventures are comprised of the following base elements: 

The Busted Flush, as imagined
       First, the series is centered around an “off the grid” protagonist with an off-beat lifestyle and home. McGee is a self-described beach bum who occasionally comes out of his “installment” retirement to take cases as a “salvage consultant,” working for 50 percent of the value of the property recovered. He lives in his 52 foot cabin cruiser, The Busted Flush, won in a poker game. His detached and unburdened lifestyle, and his luxury to observe the world around him as an objective critic, captures the reader. He narrates his own stories with spot-on observations and critiques of the world in which we live. We, as readers, nod in agreement and become wannabes. 

       Second, there is the “best friend” buddy who provides an intellectual counterpoint, someone with whom the protagonist can spar during the course of the narrative. This companion must be colorful in his own right, intelligent, and equally detached, but must in some respects stand in independent contrast to the protagonist. McGee’s “buddy” is Meyer, an erstwhile economist, who lives on his nearby book-packed ship, initially The John Maynard Keynes, later (after The Keynes fails to survive an adventure) The Thorstein Veblen. 

     Third, the stories, at their heart, focus on the strengths, and the largely man-made weaknesses, of the state of Florida. Even when they do not take place there, each Travis McGee adventure displays a love of the natural Florida ecosystems, a disgruntled horror as to what is happening to them, and a matching disdain for those who are “developing” the state out of existence. A kind word is never said about a double wide, a condominium, a jet ski or a Hawaiian shirt.  As Florida author Carl Hiassen has written: "Most readers loved MacDonald's work because he told a rip-roaring yarn. I loved it because he was the first modern writer to nail Florida dead-center, to capture all its languid sleaze, racy sense of promise, and breath-grabbing beauty." 

       Fourth, the adventures must be well written.  MacDonald often criticized what he viewed as "hack" writing, and his own works set a high bar with his clean and spare prose, his eye for detail, and his ear for dialog.  

       With these elements in mind, for those craving a Florida fix, or, more specifically, a Travis McGee fix, there are at least two series that work pretty hard to deliver: The Doc Ford series written by Randy Wayne White, and the Thorn series written by James W. Hall. 

       Doc Ford, a retired NSA agent and marine biologist, has been the hero of 21 mysteries written by Randy Lee White, with a 22nd, Cuba Straits, due out this March. The similarities to the McGee stories are striking. Ford is decidedly “off the grid,” living in a stilt house above the water on the gulf coast of Florida and ostensibly making his living by peddling marine specimens to collectors and scientists. His best friend and sidekick (like Meyer, always referred to by a single name) is Tomlinson, a frequently stoned philosopher who lives nearby on a Morgan sailboat (also, in a direct nod to MacDonald, named The Thorstein Veblen).  And the Doc Ford stories invariably contain impassioned takes on the delicate Florida eco structure and the angry rants of a frustrated environmentalist protagonist as he witnesses what is happening to it. 

       Another take on the formula is James W. Hall’s series, featuring the loner Thorn. Thorn is also an environmentally-aware protagonist who lives in a Florida shack built above the water and makes his living tying fishing lures. He is an orphan and a maverick, and is usually aided by his (again, one-name) sidekick Sugarman, a Florida policeman (and, eventually, ex-policeman) who serves as Thorn's verbal sparring partner as they fight various injustices, including the abuses rendered to the Floridian land and sea. 

       Each of these series has its faithful followers, and each is well written. Randy Wayne White has authored over fifty books, fiction and non-fiction, under his own name and several aliases. James W. Hall is both a novelist and an accomplished poet. The reader expects well written prose from these gentlemen and the authors deliver. But having read most of White’s series and the first third of Hall’s, there is still something missing for a reader, such as myself, in search of Travis McGee. Maybe it is the fact that Doc Ford, and (I suspect) Randy Wayne White, at least for me, is a little too right wing for a steady diet. Maybe it’s the fact that entirely too many of the characters in Hall’s series end up dying, and in gratuitous ways unnecessary to the logical progression of the story. 

       But lets face it: criticism is easy. And, by the same token, concocting a riveting tale and telling the tale as well as MacDonald, by contrast, is hard.  It takes a real hand to pull off a Florida series that can be read as a steady diet.  I can’t even do that with Carl Hiaasen's novels. When I have read a few I feel the need to come up for air.  These books, and other Florida capers, are fine as far as they go, but they still pale when compared to the works of John D. MacDonald, in the words of Stephen King “the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.” 

The last Travis McGee novel
        It looks like those of us who wondered what ever happened to Scout and Atticus will get our answer this summer, fifty five years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. And now we also have a new Sherlock Holmes story, thanks to that lost Arthur Conan Doyle manuscript.  MacDonald’s fans, of course, arguably have little to grouse about by contrast. The available MacDonald library is far greater than Harper Lee's two books, and McGee, on his own, weighs in with 21 installments. But, still, that has not stopped fans from wishing, and from searching out and then gobbling up similar Florida adventures.    

       For fans of these authors it is not so much how many books were written as it is facing the prospect that there will be no more.  It is that prospect that leaves us overjoyed at the unexpected promise of Go Set a Watchman or that final Sherlock Holmes story, and despairing over the fact that McGee's tale is apparently done.  The response of many of us to the fact that it is all over is a rift on McDonald’s three eternal words:

       “Please, not yet.”

08 February 2015

A Death a Day


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?