FWC Law Enforcement Report

September 29, 2016

The Florida FWC Division of Law Enforcement reported the following activity during the weekly period ending September 22 in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

ESCAMBIA COUNTY

Officers Cushing, Manning and Trueblood were patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Mexico aboard the FINCAT with assistance from Officer Tolbert and his Aviation Unit. One of the vessels that Officers Manning and Trueblood inspected in federal waters was in possession of 16 red snapper. Red snapper is currently closed for harvest in federal waters. The operator of the vessel stated that he thought state waters were closed and federal waters were open. Officer Trueblood issued a citation to the operator for the violation.

Lieutenant Hahr was patrolling the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when he observed a vehicle parked at a closed gate late at night. The area is closed at night. When he spoke to the couple in the vehicle, the woman’s suspicious actions prompted a closer look. After a glance into the woman’s purse, paraphernalia used for drug use was observed. Heroin and prescription pills were located in the purse along with a needle and crushed pills mixed with water. The woman admitted to shooting up the day before and was arrested for possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia.

SANTA ROSA COUNTY

No reported submitted from Santa Rosa County.

This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement. Information provided by FWC.

Court: Student’s Tweets About Shooting Up School Are Not A Crime

September 29, 2016

Sarasota County high-school student’s statement on Twitter that he “can’t WAIT to shoot up my school” does not constitute a criminal threat under Florida law, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned a juvenile-delinquency ruling involving “J.A.W.,” the student who sent the tweets in 2014. But in a rare step, the court also suggested that the Legislature might want to look at updating the state’s law against violent threats — originally approved in 1913 — to account for the growth of social media.

“With this popularity comes the unfortunate but inevitable problem that social media posts, like any other form of communication, can be used to make threats of violence,” Judge Nelly Khouzam wrote for the court. “But many threats made on social media will fall outside the narrow language of (the law), which was originally written with pen-and-paper letters in mind.”

The law was updated in 2010 to account for electronic communications, but because it requires the threat to be sent to the person threatened or a family member of that person, the court ruled that it doesn’t always apply to posts on social media.

J.A.W., who is not identified by name in the ruling because he was a juvenile, sent out several tweets that suggested he would open fire at his school. In one post, he wrote: “night f[***]ing sucked can’t wait to shoot up my school soon,” according to the court. He also tweeted out “it’s time,” accompanied by a picture of a gun being slipped into a backpack.

Meanwhile, there was at least one tweet that indicated he might be joking, as J.A.W. later said he was. “My mom and dad think I’m serious about shooting up my school I’m dying,” he wrote. He later apologized on Twitter “to anyone who took me seriously” and said he didn’t even own a weapon.

J.A.W. claimed the tweets were, in the court’s words, part of a joke with a “group of friends who often joked about being unfairly stereotyped as potentially violent based on their interest in video games and rock music.”

The student’s tweets were found by GeoCop, a company formed to scour social media for threats of school violence. The company notified law enforcement, which then told officials at Sarasota High School about the threat. As the school planned to let students out and officers went to the campus, J.A.W. was arrested at his home.

But the tweets don’t fall under part of the law that punishes anyone who “sends or procures the sending of” a written threat, Khouzam wrote, brushing aside the state’s argument that J.A.W. procured the actions of those who brought the threat to the school’s attention.

“There was no evidence that any of J.A.W.’s Twitter followers were students or staff at the school or members of their families,” Khouzam wrote. “By the time it was received by the school, the threat was several steps removed from its original context.”

Courts have worked for several years to adapt state law to the ever-changing world of social media. In a 2013 case, the 1st District Court of Appeal found that a threat on Facebook violated the law. But Khouzam said that case was different because one of the defendant’s Facebook friends was a mutual relative of one of the people threatened in the post.

Khouzam’s opinion, joined by Judges Darryl Casanueva and Matthew Lucas, also suggested that lawmakers consider amending the law to cover social media threats that are public and can move around the internet quickly.

“In this context, a threat of violence made publicly on social media is likely to reach its target and cause fear of bodily harm just like a traditional letter might,” she wrote. “The facts of the instant case exemplify this phenomenon.”

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

New Sign Proclaims Century Blackcat Pride At Anthony Pleasant Park

September 29, 2016

The Century Blackcats youth football league has a new press box sign at Anthony Pleasant Park. The sign, painted and donated by Tabitha Schoonover, reads “Century, Home of the Blackcats” — similar to a sign that greeted visitors at the old Century High School. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

U.S. Senate Approves Zika Funding As Cases Increase

September 29, 2016

With Zika cases climbing to 921 in Florida, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday advanced a federal spending bill that includes $1.1 billion in funding to combat the mosquito-borne disease.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with fellow Florida Sen. Bill Nelson supported the bill, said the measure contains $15 million to directly help states, like Florida, with cases of locally transmitted Zika and has $60 million that could help Puerto Rico.

“This anti-Zika package rightfully prioritizes Americans in Florida and Puerto Rico, and I’m encouraged my calls for action have been answered and that real assistance from the federal government is finally on its way,” Rubio said. Nelson called the Senate vote “a small victory” in the effort to block the disease, which can cause severe birth defects.

“The emergency spending approved today will help increase local mosquito-control efforts to contain the spread of the virus and allow federal researchers to continue their search for a vaccine,” Nelson said.

The emergency spending still needed approval from the U.S. House.

On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health announced six new locally transmitted Zika cases in the state, including four in Miami-Dade County and one each involving residents of Broward and Palm Beach counties. That brought Florida’s total to 115 cases in which the disease was transmitted locally by mosquitoes.

Florida also had eight new travel-related Zika cases, for a total of 700 travel-related cases. In such cases, people have been infected elsewhere and brought the virus into the state. Health officials also said there are 92 cases involving pregnant women, 13 cases involving non-Florida residents and one “undetermined” case, all of which are classified separately from the travel-related and locally transmitted cases.

There have been two travel-related cases of Zika reported in Escambia County.

Teen Jailed For Murdering His Brother

September 28, 2016

A disagreement between two brothers escalated into violence Wednesday morning and ended with one of them being murdered and the other arrested.

Denzel Dywan Williams, 15, of 715 North H St., Pensacola, has been charged with second-degree murder.

His brother – Malik Kewsie Williams, 19, of the same address – died after he was stabbed twice, said Sgt. Stephen Bauer.

Police were dispatched to the residence around 12:20 p.m. after receiving a phone call regarding an armed disturbance at the residence.

Officers determined the brothers got into a verbal disagreement that escalated into a physical confrontation. While they were fighting, Denzel, who had been holding a knife, stabbed his brother.

Denzel Williams was taken into custody at the scene; Malik Williams died a short time later at a local hospital.

Hiring Event Friday At Santa Rosa Correctional

September 28, 2016

The Florida Department of Corrections will host a hiring event Friday at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution.

The Florida Department of Corrections is seeking qualified individuals to join the agency. Applicants should bring the following (if possible): driver’s license, legible copy of birth certificate, social security card, high school diploma, GED or college transcripts and any name change documents (if applicable), such as a marriage certificate. Veterans and current reservists/Guardsmen should bring a copy of their DD-214 or military ID, respectively.

The event will be held at 9:00 a.m Friday, but applicants should arrive no later than 8:30 a.m. at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution at 5850 East Milton Road.

For employment information contact Recruitment Officer Christy Padgett at (850) 983-5909 or padgett.christy@mail.dc.state.fl.us.

Death Penalty On Hold As Court Looks For Answers

September 28, 2016

Throughout this year, Florida’s death penalty has been in a state of limbo.

Executions are on hold, judges across the state are postponing death penalty cases, and defense lawyers are seeking additional reviews in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January that struck down Florida’s death-penalty sentencing process.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Florida gave too much power to judges, instead of juries, in deciding whether defendants should be executed. But the 8-1 ruling also created uncertainty by failing to address whether jury recommendations for death sentences should be unanimous.

The focus is now on the Florida Supreme Court, left grappling with a variety of issues related to the January ruling and a law hurriedly passed by state lawmakers in response to the decision.

“Defense lawyers are trying to push the cases off, waiting for the court, and in some instances judges are going along with it,” said Bernie McCabe, the state attorney in the 6th Judicial Circuit in Pasco and Pinellas counties. “And if they don’t go along with it, defense lawyers file other motions claiming other stuff, to try to push it. So the frustration is we’re not getting the cases to trial that ought to be tried. And, unlike fine wine, my cases don’t get better with age.”

Of nearly three dozen states that have the death penalty, Florida is one of only three states — including Delaware and Alabama — that do not require unanimous jury recommendations for death. Delaware’s death penalty is also in flux. The Delaware Supreme Court in August decided that the state’s death-penalty process, similar to Florida’s, was unconstitutional. In contrast to Florida, Delaware’s last execution was in 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a case known as Hurst v. Florida dealt with the sentencing phase of death-penalty cases after defendants are found guilty, and it focused on “aggravating circumstances” that must be determined before defendants can be sentenced to death. The ruling cemented a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in a case known as Ring v. Arizona, requiring that determinations of such aggravating circumstances must be made by juries, not judges.

Under Florida’s old law, jurors by a simple majority could recommend the death penalty. Judges would then make findings of fact that “sufficient” aggravating factors, not outweighed by mitigating circumstances, existed for the death sentence to be imposed.

That system was an unconstitutional violation of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in an 8-1 ruling.

After the Hurst decision, Florida justices indefinitely postponed executions that had been scheduled to take place in February and March. The decision also set off a scramble by lawmakers to revise the sentencing system.

Florida’s new law — crafted by the Republican-controlled Legislature during the session that ended in March — requires juries to unanimously determine “the existence of at least one aggravating factor” before defendants can be eligible for death sentences. The law also requires at least 10 jurors to recommend the death penalty in order for the sentence to be imposed, a departure from the old law, which required a simple majority of jurors.

After hearing arguments in dozens of cases since January, the Florida Supreme Court is considering whether the Hurst decision applies to defendants whose death sentences were handed down before the January ruling. The court is also poised to decide a variety of other issues, including whether the new law — which does not require a unanimous recommendation for death — is constitutional.

One of the most highly anticipated decisions involves the case of Larry Darnell Perry, who was convicted in the 2013 murder of his infant son.

“Clearly at this stage in our jurisprudence, we want to make sure that the statute is construed in a constitutional manner so that we don’t have another 15 years of death penalty — if the state wants the death penalty, which apparently it does — in flux,” Justice Barbara Pariente said June 7 during arguments in Perry’s case.

Perry’s case hinges on whether the new law should apply to defendants whose prosecutions were underway when the new law went into effect. While Perry’s lawyer, J. Edwin Mills, argued that the new law should not apply in his client’s case, other defense lawyers are split on the issue. Mills contends his client should receive a life sentence.

Arguments in the Perry case also focused on the new law, which circuit judges in Tampa and Miami have ruled is unconstitutional because it does not require unanimous recommendations from juries.

Lawmakers adopted the 10-2 recommendation at the urging of prosecutors, who objected to the notion of requiring unanimity.

“Philosophically, I’ve never had a real problem with unanimity. My problem has always been what happens then to the cases that have already been tried, when the jury was told that their recommendation did not have to be unanimous. Do you undo 20 or 30 years of jurisprudence and impact cases?” McCabe said. “If you litigate that case and that case gets affirmed and they uphold the constitutionality of the system under which the sentence was imposed, I don’t think decades later they should come in and say, ‘Oops, we didn’t mean to,’ because the personalities are now different on the court.”

The issues awaiting Florida Supreme Court decisions will have a far-reaching impact, affecting inmates already on Death Row as well as defendants whose cases are in progress or have not yet reached the trial stage.

Confident that the court will uphold the new law, prosecutors are moving forward with capital cases.

“We believe that the changes have made the death penalty constitutional again,” Dave Aronberg, state attorney in the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County, said.

But at the circuit level, many judges are hesitant to try capital cases that could be overturned after a Florida Supreme Court ruling, according to Pete Mills, an assistant public defender in the 10th Judicial Circuit who is chairman of the Florida Public Defender Association’s death penalty steering committee.

Ambiguity over Florida’s death penalty has created frustration for judges, prosecutors and even defense lawyers.

“It creates a strain for everybody involved,” Mills said. “We all want to be able to resolve these cases. But, going forward with statutes that are unconstitutional without having constitutionally approved jury instructions, is an invitation to disaster and will cause a lot of cases to have to be retried.”

Some judges are asking defense lawyers to agree to proceed with the first phase of trials, to determine guilt or innocence, and put the sentencing phase of the trials on hold until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the new law.

“There’s definitely a lack of uniformity across the circuit courts and the federal district courts in terms of Hurst issues,” said Maria DeLiberato, an attorney representing Death Row inmate Dane Abdool.

Abdool is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit centered on the constitutionality of Florida’s lethal injection procedure. A federal judge in Jacksonville recently put Abdool’s case on hold, pending decisions from the Florida Supreme Court.

State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit acknowledged that finality from the court would be welcome.

“For the efficiency of the system, everybody would like to see it resolved and we move on from there,” he said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Achieve Escambia Hires First Executive Director

September 28, 2016

Greg Voss has been named director of Achieve Escambia; Pensacola’s new cradle to career collective impact effort. Voss has more than 25 years of experience working in non-profit management.

Most recently Voss served as the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the 7 Rivers Region in Wisconsin. Voss has also held leadership positions with the American Red Cross and Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“We are excited to hire Greg to serve as Achieve Escambia’s director,” said Debbie Calder, executive vice President of Greater Pensacola Operations for Navy Federal Credit Union and current chair of the Achieve Escambia Leadership Council. “Greg has extensive experience as a strong non-profit leader and brings a passion and enthusiasm that will help fully launch this cradle to career effort.”

Achieve Escambia is a collective impact partnership of leaders and stakeholders in education, non-profit, business, faith, community, civic and philanthropic sectors committed to aligning community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success. The partnership shares a vision and strategy for improving cradle to career outcomes through a structured, evidence based, long-term approach. As a result of community input, Achieve Escambia will focus its initial efforts to the area of school readiness.

“I’ve been impressed by the collective support and strong commitment Achieve Escambia has received from the community,” Voss said. “I am proud to be part of such an exciting effort to not only improve career readiness, but improve lives.”

Voss will officially begin working with Achieve Escambia on October 24.

Achieve Escambia was founded in 2016 when members of the Pensacola business community identified a need to better support and supplement the career readiness efforts taking place across Pensacola. The group’s mission is to improve education and workforce outcomes for the community; every child, every step of the way, cradle to career.

Northview Cross Country Meet Results (With Gallery)

September 28, 2016

Pensacola Christian Academy took first place for both male and female runners Tuesday afternoon at Northview High School in Bratt.

School participating were: Northview, Ernest Ward, Jay, Flomaton, Laurel Hill and PCA.

For a photo gallery, click here.

(Results are below photo, scroll down)


Meet results were as follows:

Fastest Girl- Katylyn Buschman from PCA 21:51

Fastest boy- Hunter Stewart from PCA 18:00

Girls

  1. Pensacola Christian Academy
  2. Jay
  3. Flomaton
  4. Northview
  5. Ernest Ward

Boys

  1. Pensacola Christian Academy
  2. Northview
  3. Jay
  4. Flomaton
  5. Laurel Hill
  6. Ernest Ward

Top 5 Runners for each School

Northview

  1. Jasmine Elliott 26:14
  2. Marissa Rothrock 27:26
  3. Rebekah Amerson 29:29
  4. Hannah McGahan 29:33
  5. Kirsten White 29:37
  1. Brandon Korinchak 19:02
  2. Tanner Levins 21:20
  3. Oscar Rodriguez 21:44
  4. Adrian King 23:09
  5. Josiah Stilwell 23:55

Ernest Ward

  1. Leah Anderson 31:29
  2. Jordan Stanley 31:46
  3. Emily Levins 32:37
  4. Kacy Knable 33:55
  5. Hadassah Mascaro 33:57
  1. Dakota Bryan 24:03
  2. Kole Stewart 25:07
  3. Braedan McGhee 27:22
  4. Levi Kirkpatrick 27:41
  5. Eric Amerson 29:51

Flomaton

  1. Kristin Coleman 25:19
  2. Charley Boutwell 26:27
  3. Shelby Barnes 28:18
  4. Makenzie Morrison 29:11
  5. Patricia Rogers 29:23
  1. Dwayne Hamby 19:27
  2. Dylan Patterson 23:04
  3. Will Rolin 25:50
  4. Dustin Martin 26:27
  5. Jacob strehl 29:07

Jay

  1. Jillian Thornton 23:52
  2. Hannah Whitlock 24:08
  3. Grace Gillman 25:38
  4. Laryn Kimmons 26:54
  5. Emma Barrow 28:42
  1. Chance Thornton 21:07
  2. Austin Gonzalez 22:00
  3. Jimmie Ates 23:51
  4. Jacob Gonzalez 25:07
  5. Ryan Wayland 26:20

Pensacola Christian Academy

  1. Katylyn Buschman 21:51
  2. Karissa Porter 24:23
  3. Hannah Box
  4. Ruth Ann Gipson
  5. Kayla Porter
  1. Hunter Stewart 18:00
  2. Ben Fulford 20:05
  3. Michael Lunsford 21:19
  4. Hayden Brown 21:59
  5. Ben Lucoay 22:11

Laurel Hill

  1. Sarah Mchon 30:54
  2. Cheyanne Regan35:17
  3. Madison Williams 35:43
  1. Garrett Mcvoy 22:41
  2. Drew Raef 22:50
  3. Mark Steele 24:49
  4. Mark Posey 31:29
  5. Jonathon Murphy 31:42

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Escambia Man Faces Life Sentence For Abusing Children

September 27, 2016

An Escambia County man is facing up to life in prison after being convicted of molesting two children.

An Escambia County jury convicted Gregory McLean of one count of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim less than 12 years of age by an offender over 18 years of age and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age by an offender over 18 years of age.

On January 15, 2016, the defendant’s cell phone was located in a bathroom trying to video record one of the victims getting into the shower. After the discovery of the cell phone, both of the victims revealed that the defendant had molested them when they were younger. One victim was between the ages of 9 and 10 years of age at the time of the molestation, and the other victim was between the ages of 12 and 13 years of age.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 8 in front of Judge John L. Miller. McLean faces a minimum of 25 years in prison with lifetime sexual offender probation up to a maximum penalty of life in prison. McLean will also be designated as a sexual predator.

Next Page »