Bob Self / Florida Times-Union via Reuters Marissa Alexander appers in a Duval County courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2012.
By Erin McClam, Staff Writer, NBC News
A Florida woman serving 20 years in prison for firing a shot into the wall during a fight with her husband will get a new trial in March and can argue next week to be released on bail, a judge ruled Thursday.
The plight of the woman, Marissa Alexander, drew national attention because of perceived parallels to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense and was acquitted in July of second-degree murder.
Alexander claimed that she feared for her life on Aug. 1, 2010, during a fight with her estranged husband, Rico Gray, who was under a restraining order.
She testified that she fled into a garage and got a gun but couldn't leave the house because the garage door was stuck. She testified that she went back into the house and fired the shot.
Gray testified that Alexander was the aggressor and pointed the gun at him before she fired. She was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and the trial judge said he was bound by state law to give her 20 years.
In September, a state appeals court ordered a new trial. The appeals court said that the trial judge gave the jury incorrect instructions on self-defense.
It said, however, that the judge was correct to block Alexander from invoking the Florida law known as Stand Your Ground, which generally removes a person’s duty to retreat when he or she is confronted with perceived deadly force.
State prosecutors said, and the trial judge agreed, that Alexander acted in anger, and showed by going back inside the house that she was not afraid for her life.
Alexander’s bail hearing was set for Nov. 8, and her retrial for March 31.
Alexander’s supporters want state prosecutors to drop the case. Prosecutors have said that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
Prosecutors said Thursday that they would oppose bail.
“The State Attorney’s Office has no intention of dropping the very serious charges against the defendant,” Jackelyn Bernard, a spokeswoman for the state prosecutor handling the case, said in a statement. “The SAO will continue to pursue justice for our two child victims and their father who were endangered by the shot the defendant fired at them.”
A lawyer for Alexander did not immediately answer a request for comment.
http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/31/21264038-new-trial-set-for-florida-woman-given-20-years-for-firing-shot-in-domestic-dispute?liteThis story was originally published on Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:15 PM EDT
PF LouisNatural News
July 5, 2013
More events of mass wild-life species deaths are occurring exponentially, usually without explanation. Often the immediate problem is recognized, but what caused
the problem remains unknown.
The term “non-point pollution” pops up, indicating that the source of the problem comes from more than one polluter.
Although several usual suspects are named and gathered in the media, they are merely loosely discussed, but not seriously investigated by journalists, government agencies, or legal authorities.
Industrial representatives routinely influence media and government to ignore the situation or, at best, go through the motions, skim the event’s surface, and leave with nothing conclusive. Either way, there’s no accountability or environmental resolution.
The Gulf BP disaster was a major example of industry’s sway over media and government with the worst man-made ecological disasters in the USA ever.
The recent Indian Creek Lagoon crisis in the central east coast of Florida is an enormous ecological disaster that some consider an inexplicable natural occurrence while others call it a non-point (multi-source) pollution problem. 
But something is fishy about the circumstances that precipitated this incident.
June 6, 2013
A Florida sheriff who believes in the Second Amendment was charged Tuesday for removing the arrest file of a suspect held on an unconstitutional gun charge but later released.Liberty County Sheriff Nicholas Finch, 50, was booked in his own jail Tuesday with one count of official misconduct by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE accuses Finch of covering up the arrest of Floyd Eugene Parrish after releasing him from the Liberty County Jail. Parrish had been arrested for carrying a concealed firearm without a license, a third-degree felony in Florida.
On March 8, Sgt. James Joseph Hoagland of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office arrested Parrish during a traffic stop after finding a .25 automatic pistol in Parrish’s pocket and a holstered revolver in the front seat, according to court records. Parrish was then taken to the county jail.
Finch arrived at the jail with Parrish’s brother and spoke to Parrish, after which Finch took the arrest file and told correctional officers Parrish would be released with no charges, according to investigators. Finch also ordered both the pistol and revolver be returned to Parrish.
Hoagland told FDLE investigators that several days later, he spoke to Finch about Parrish’s release and Finch told him he “believed in Second Amendment rights.”
The FDLE crime lab analyzed the jail log sheet and discovered white-out had been applied over Parrish’s name.
Investigators also noted that Hoagland’s copy of the arrest affidavit and a computer record are the only known existing documentation of Parrish’s arrest. Neither the affidavit nor the computer record are recognized in court because they are not considered usable originals.
Finch’s attorney does not refute the story as told by investigators. “The records at the jail show exactly what happened in this case and the records speak the truth,” said Finch’s attorney Jimmy Judkins. “The sheriff looked at the facts and said ‘I believe in the Second Amendment and we’re not going to charge him.’ That is not misconduct at all. That is within the Sheriff’s prerogative whether to charge someone or not.”
Samuel Coover, a Liberty County resident, said that because Finch was not from Liberty County, people considered him an outsider and finally railroaded him out. “In my personal opinion he was doing his job and people didn’t like it,” said Coover.
Another long-time county resident also supported Finch. “I hope it’s all a misunderstanding,” said 88-year-old Alma Sanders. “We need a good sheriff.”
An official misconduct charge is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. The charge is covered under Florida Statutes 838.022, which says it is unlawful for a public servant to “conceal, cover up, destroy, mutilate, or alter any official record or official document.”
Finch was released shortly after his arrest on his own recognizance. He was elected sheriff of the Florida panhandle county of approximately 8,000 residents in November 2012, running under “No Party Affiliation.”
Update: Liberty County Sheriff Finch Arrested in Alleged Jail Coverup
Florida Sheriff Arrested On Governor’s Orders for Defending Second Amendment
Liberty County Sheriff Arrested
Finch is first Liberty County Sheriff to win office with NPA
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May 31, 2013 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian was slammed to the ground and put in a chokehold over the Memorial Day weekend for the crime of giving Miami-Dade cops “dehumanizing stares.” The police also didn’t approve of his body language and reacted violently to his failure to obey commands. The teen’s mother captured the incident on her cell phone.
The teen insists his only crime was ignoring the police and walking away. “I feel that should never have happened,” he told CBS Miami. “I don’t like it. I feel sad. He got in front of me on the ATC and he slammed my hand. Then he started choking me.” McMillian said his dog was injured during the takedown on Haulover Beach in Miami.
“I ran over with my son and used my cell phone when I saw my son and he couldn’t breathe,” said Maurissa Holmes, the teen’s mother. “There was no reason to slam him on the ground like that the way they did. He’s a child, not an adult. For them to jump off their ATV and do this, this is wrong. I want justice. You don’t do that to a child.”
The incident occurred after police said McMillian was involved in an incident with another teen. The police “told him that behavior was unacceptable,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “He walked away and officers followed him. They asked where his parents were. He said he was not going to take them to them. When he started to leave the beach area, officers had to get off their ATVs to detain him. He had closed arms, clenched fists and pulled his arm away.”
“Once he was approaching the road, the officers restrained him. Again his body language was that he was stiffening up and pulling away,” said Zabaleta. “Now you’re resisting officers at that point and when the hands are swinging and you are resisting officers, at that point you have to be taken into custody.”
“Of course we have to neutralize the threat,” added Zabaleta. “When you have somebody resistant to them and pulling away and somebody clenching their fists and flailing their arms, that’s a threat.”
McMillian was arrested and charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony,. He was also charged with disorderly conduct.
The incident is another example how police interact with the public and how they react when citizens do not obey commands or display what they consider the required amount of deference. McMillian did not pose a violent threat to police. He simply refused to obey orders and when confronted reacted with “dehumanizing stares,” a crime that resulted in a felony charge.
Invasive reptile, which was dispatched with a knife, measures 18 feet, 8 inches, and weighs 128 pounds
May 20, 2013 by Pete Thomas
A Miami man briefly wrestled with and ultimately used a knife to kill a Burmese python measuring 18 feet, 8 inches.
That sets a state record for pythons captured or killed in the wild. The previous record measured 17 feet, 7 inches.
Jason Leon was not hunting pythons but, while driving late at night recently in southeast Miami-Dade County, he and a friend spotted about 3 feet of snake protruding from the brush.
Leon applied the brakes, climbed out of the car, grabbed the visible portion of the snake, and began hauling it onto the road.
The giant constrictor responded by trying to wrap its body around one of Leon’s legs, but he was able to dispatch the reptile with a knife.
Burmese pythons are native to grassy marshes of Southeast Asia and can grow to about 23 feet and weigh up to about 200 pounds.
In Florida, where they’ve been released as pets and escaped from wildlife facilities, there are thousands of them, mostly within the Everglades ecosystem.
As such a large and voracious invasive species, they’re a threat to native wildlife. The state would like to eradicate them, if that were possible.
Leon, meanwhile, is being praised.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a news release, in which exotic species specialist Kristen Sommers stated:
“The FWC is grateful to him for both safety removing such a large Burmese python and for reporting its capture…With the help of people like Mr. Leon and our ongoing partnerships with other agencies, the FWC is advancing what we know about Burmese pythons in Florida.”
Leon, who said he once owned Burmese pythons and has experience handling the nonpoisonous snakes, reported the capture via a hotline used for reporting exotic species.
The python was delivered to the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center where it was measured and a necropsy was performed.
—To view more photos, please visit the FWC’s Flickr page and Facebook page
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(CNN) -- A body with a self-inflicted gunshot wound was found along with a bag of bombs in a dormitory room at the University of Central Florida early Monday, prompting officials to cancel classes at the main Orlando campus until at least noon, a school spokesman said.
Police made the discovery shortly after 12:20 a.m., after a fire alarm sounded at the Tower 1 dorm and someone called 911 about a person with a gun there, school spokesman Grant Heston said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien." Officers entered the dorm and found a male dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a bedroom, Heston said.
Police also found a handgun, an assault weapon and a bag of improvised explosive devices in the room, Heston said.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are assisting the UCF Police Department with the investigation. The Sheriff's Office's bomb squad is on campus to examine the IEDs found at the scene, UCF said.
Heston didn't say whether the dead person was a student, nor did he release a name.
The dorm, home to about 500 students, was evacuated.
"The safety of our students in Tower 1 and our entire campus community is our top priority," UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said.
UCF said it was providing the evacuated students counseling and food at the university's Veterans Academic Resource Center.
The parking garage closest to Tower 1 was initially closed off, but the university reopened it around 9 a.m.
UCF has more than 59,000 students at its main campus and 10 regional campuses, according to the school.
CNN's Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.
TALLAHASSEE -- After a tumultuous two years, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has resigned in the wake of a federal probe into a company she represented with ties to Internet cafes.
"Effective immediately, I hereby resign the Office of Lieutenant Governor of the State of Florida. It has been an honor to have served the State of Florida in this capacity," her two-sentence letter dated Tuesday states.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers interviewed Carroll two days ago about her ties to Allied Veterans of the World, company that runs Internet cafes. On Tuesday, federal law enforcement arrested officials from the company along with a Jacksonville police union chief on racketeering charges.The non-profit held itself out to be a charity for veterans that was associated with the Veterans Administrationand oversaw dozens of store-front "electronic sweepstakes" centers that it called "fund-raising centers," according to a federal search warrant affidavit, prepared by an Internal Revenue agent.
"In fact, the 'fundraising centers' were nothing more than internet casinos that operated slot machines in violation of Florida's gambling laws," the affidavit said.
That amounted to "a conspiracy and scheme to defraud the public and governmental agencies," the affidavit said.
The company grossed $290 million between 2007 and 2012, the affidavit said, but only donated $6 million to charity.
Gov. Rick Scott's office is not expected to name a replacement for Carroll until after the 60-day legislative session ends in May. One candidate on Scott's short-list in 2010, Miami Sen. Anitere Flores, declined to comment on her interest. "Rather not right now. Jennifer is a good friend," she said after a Capitol committee hearing.
An email from Florida Chamber of Commerce political director Marian Johnson to other lobbyists noted the "widespread speculation on who the new LT. Governor might be."
"For some time, Miami Senator Anitere Flores has been discussed as a future statewide candidate," she wrote. "Is this the time that Senator Flores will rise to the top of the list?"
Other Republicans said the opening was a good chance for Scott to shore up support by tapping an Hispanic replacement. Scott "has a chance to pick, frankly, someone who he thinks can help with the campaign," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.
Carroll, a former Jacksonville state legislator, was Florida's first African-American lieutenant governor. Her Jacksonville public relations firm, 3N and JC, did work for Allied in 2009 and 2010.
In Tallahassee, Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, issued this statement Wednesday morning:
"Individuals were arrested [Tuesday] for racketeering and money laundering charges in connection with Allied Veterans of the World's illegal gambling companies.
"Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010. She was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers [Tuesday] regarding her work with the company. Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliation with the company from distracting from the administration's important work on behalf of Florida families. She made the right decision for the state and her family."
The announcement of Carroll's resignation drew a blistering statement from Allison Tant, chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
"Floridians expected an administration focused on solving the problems facing Florida's families, but instead got a scandal plagued Governor and a revolving staff door," Tant wrote.
"Rick Scott and his administration have made a mockery of the Governor's office — embarrassing Floridians while failing to accomplish his legislative priorities. Scott campaigned on changing Tallahassee but his first three years have been more of the same corruption and waste that taxpayers have come to expect from Florida Republicans."
Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, was considerably more subdued.
"Lt. Gov. Carroll has been a great leader for our party and our state," Curry said in a statement. "She was a terrific advocate for Florida's military and economic development efforts. Her resignation is disappointing, but she made the right decision to protect both her family and the work she has done to move our state forward over the last few years."
Carroll, 53, is a former Navy officer elected to her Jacksonville-area Florida House seat in 2003, where she stayed until Scott tapped her as his running mate in 2010. As part of the job, she chaired Space Florida, the economic-development agency that promotes space.
But she has been a cause for controversy before during Scott's term.
In 2011, the Jacksonville Times-Union reported she had used false documents to qualify for a Jacksonville minority-owned grant program for her firm. Last year, her aide Carletha Cole, was charged with giving a T-U reporter a recording of her conversation with her chief-of-staff. In court filings, Cole accused Carroll of having an inappropriate relationship with another female employee, prompting Carroll to make a controversial remark to a TV reporter that "black women that look like me" aren't lesbians.
Authorities were tight-tipped about a news conference scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today and the investigation. Those who are slated to attend the briefing include Attorney General Pam Bondi, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, U.S. Attorney Bobby O'Neill, and representatives from theU.S. Secret Service, the IRS, and multiple local law-enforcement agencies.
Allied Veterans of the World sued Seminole County over its ban on the so-called Internet cafes, which offer cash and prizes through computerized games that simulate devices found in casinos like slot machines.
Last year, a federal appeals court ruled Seminole County could continue its ban, and Allied Veterans has since dropped its opposition.
The group said it sold one of its strip-mall casinos in the Apopka area on State Road 436, but the federal affadavit said it continued to send money to Allied Veterans.
No one answered the phone this morning at that location.
Kathleen Haugney of the Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel
By Joe Sutton and Ed Payne, CNN
updated 1:42 AM EDT, Wed March 13, 2013(CNN) -- Two days after he was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool at a Disney resort in Florida, a 13-year-old boy from Missouri has died.
Anthony Johnson died Tuesday morning, according to the Orange County Sheriff's office. No cause of death was given.
"We are saddened by Anthony Johnson's passing and our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones," a statement from Disney said. "We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time."
The boy was swimming at Disney's Pop Century Resort pool on Sunday evening with family members and other guests when he was spotted in about 4 feet of water by a cousin, who pulled him out, sheriff's deputies told CNN affiliate WKMG-TV. Lifeguards were not on duty at the time of the incident.
Buffalo, New York, firefighter William Cybulski said he gave CPR to the boy.
"You never want to see something like that especially when you're on vacation, or any child in general no matter where you are," he said in an interview with WKMG.
Cybulski's girlfriend, Crystal Loschiavo, told the affiliate she did her best to keep the family calm, including Johnson's brother.
"The little boy was really upset that it was his brother," Loschiavo said. "He kept saying 'this is my only brother, this is my only brother. I don't want anything to happen to him.'"
The Pop Century Resort is located in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando.
It celebrates the "unforgettable fads of the 1950s through the 1990s," by saluting the "timeless fashions, catch phrases, toys and dances that captivated the world through the decades," the Disney website says.
CNN's Marylynn Ryan contributed to this report
SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — Engineers worked gingerly Saturday morning to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.
Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush's brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy.
Engineers began doing more tests at 7 a.m. Saturday. Crews with equipment were at the home next door, one of two that has been evacuated. By 10 a.m., officials moved media crews farther away from the Bush house so experts could perform tests on the home across the street. It's unclear how large the sinkhole is, or whether it leads to other caverns and chasms throughout the neighborhood. Experts say the underground of West Central Florida looks similar to Swiss cheese, with the geography lending itself to sinkholes.
Experts spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running various tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot where Bush lay entombed was dangerous. No one was allowed in the home.
"I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet," Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a "very large, very fluid mass."
"This is not your typical sinkhole," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill. "This is a chasm. For that reason, we're being very deliberate."
Officials delicately addressed another sad reality: Bush was likely dead and the family wanted his body. Merrill, though, said they didn't want to jeopardize any more lives.
"They would like us to go in quickly and locate Mr. Bush," Merrill said. Officials added Saturday morning that a fund had been set up to help the families affected by the sinkhole.
On Saturday, Jeremy Bush — who tried to rescue his brother when the earth opened — lay flowers and a stuffed lamb near the house and wept.
Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Roger called the situation "very complex."
"It's continuing to evolve, and the ground is continuing to collapse," he said.
Sinkholes are so common in Florida that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it's extremely rare for them to swallow a person.
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water.
"You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese," Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. "Any house in Florida could be in that same situation."
A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.
The sinkhole, estimated at 20 feet across and 20 feet deep, caused the home's concrete floor to cave in around 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the Tampa-area house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that sounded like a car hitting the house and brought Bush's brother running.
Jeremy Bush said he jumped into the hole but couldn't see his brother and had to be rescued himself by a sheriff's deputy who reached out and pulled him to safety as the ground crumbled around him.
"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother," Jeremy Bush said through tears Friday in a neighbor's yard. "But I just couldn't do nothing."
He added: "I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him."
A dresser and the TV set had vanished down the hole, along with most of Bush's bed.
A sheriff's deputy who was the first to respond to a frantic 911 call said when he arrived, he saw Jeremy Bush.
Deputy Douglas Duvall said he reached down as if he was "sticking his hand into the floor" to help Jeremy Bush. Duvall said he didn't see anyone else in the hole.
As he pulled Bush out, "everything was sinking," Duvall said.
Engineers said they may have to demolish the small house, even though from the outside there appeared to be nothing wrong with the four-bedroom, concrete-wall structure, built in 1974.
Jeremy Bush said someone came out to the home a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other things, apparently for insurance purposes.
"He said there was nothing wrong with the house. Nothing. And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole," Bush said.
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