October 21, 2016
There were no injuries in a two vehicle collision at Highway 297A and Country Road 97 in Cantonment about noon Friday. Both drivers refused medical treatment. The accident is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. NorthEscambia.com photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.
October 21, 2016
Andre M. Straughn, 40, of Milton, was sentenced to 15.5 years in prison for receipt and transportation of child pornography, as well as making a false statement to a federal agent. After incarceration, Straughn will serve 10 years of supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender.
In July 2015, law enforcement agents became aware of online child pornography files that were linked to Straughn’s online activities. Law enforcement agents conducted an investigation and determined that Straughn was a truck driver who traveled to other states with his cellular device and laptop and used multiple electronic platforms to engage in online child pornography.
After Straughn returned home from a trip, agents searched Straughn’s residence. Straughn told law enforcement agents that he did not have an online storage account, did not use the social media application Kik, and could not remember the password to his cellular telephone. A forensic review of Straughn’s electronic devices revealed that Straughn did maintain online storage accounts and a Kik account. In total, Straughn’s online storage account, laptop, and other electronic devices revealed more than 50,000 images and videos of child pornography, dating back approximately 10 years. Straughn pled guilty on June 2, 2016.
“Protecting our children from exploitation is a top priority of my office and the Department of Justice,” said United States Attorney Canova. “I commend the hard work of our prosecutors and law enforcement professionals who protect our communities and bring child predators to justice.”
“Our communities are safer today now that this criminal will spend the next 15.5 years behind bars,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “HSI special agents will continue to relentlessly pursue those who want to do harm to our children.”
The case was investigated by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, Pensacola Police Department, and the other agencies in the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg prosecuted the case.
October 21, 2016
The Florida High School Athletic Association is asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a decision that prevented two Christian schools from using a loudspeaker for a prayer before a football championship game.
The association said it did not violate the rights of Tampa’s Cambridge Christian School, which filed the lawsuit last month. In a motion to dismiss the case, the association argued that Cambridge Christian and University Christian School of Jacksonville were free to pray before a December 2015 championship game — just not over the public-address system.
“Indeed, as the amended complaint (the Cambridge Christian lawsuit) makes clear, FHSAA has not denied the school’s athletic program the ability to express itself through prayer among themselves prior, during, or following the game, either in the locker room or outside on the athletic field,” said the motion, filed Tuesday in federal court in Tampa. “FHSAA also has not banned the school’s athletes and supporters from saying anything they wish to anyone they speak with, or from displaying any signage they wish to bring with them. But the law does not require — and for good and valid reason does not permit — the FHSAA to promote sectarian prayer through state-run public address systems.”
Cambridge Christian alleges that the association, the longtime governing body for high-school sports in Florida, violated the U.S. Constitution and the state Constitution in denying a request to use the public-address system at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium for a pre-game prayer. The lawsuit also seeks a preliminary injunction against the association continuing the policy for upcoming athletic events.
“By rejecting Cambridge Christian’s request for pre-game prayer over the loudspeaker on the basis of its religious character and viewpoint, the FHSAA unlawfully prohibited Cambridge Christian’s private religious speech and unreasonably burdened its right to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion,” the lawsuit said.
The case stems from the Division 2A football championship game on Dec. 4 between Cambridge Christian and University Christian. Three days before the game, the schools asked the association to be allowed to use the loudspeaker to lead a prayer, but the request was denied.
The teams prayed together at mid-field before the game, according to court documents filed by Cambridge Christian and the association.
In the motion to dismiss filed this week, the association said it uses a public-address “protocol” that includes policies about what announcers can say during games. As examples, that includes announcements about lineups, substitutions and timeouts and includes a script for promotional announcements, the motion said. The association said it does not allow “open access” to the public-address system.
The association’s legal arguments are based, at least in part, on what is known as the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
“FHSAA was also upholding its obligations under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause in not allowing what would amount to a state-sponsored prayer at a state-sponsored championship football game,” the motion said. “Cambridge Christian was not denied the opportunity for prayer — in fact, Cambridge Christian acknowledges that it was allowed to offer a pre-game prayer, which it did so, publicly, from mid-field. FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian’s right to exercise its religious freedom and free speech rights.”
But the school’s lawsuit pointed to other forms of speech allowed at the game, including messages from corporate sponsors on the stadium’s video screen and advertisements delivered by the public-address announcer. It also said Cambridge Christian’s cheerleading coach was allowed to play music over the loudspeaker while the school’s cheerleaders performed at halftime.
“The policy is not neutral; and, the policy is not generally applicable because it prohibits religious speech, and only religious speech, from being broadcast over the loudspeaker,” the lawsuit said. “The FHSAA’s denial of Cambridge Christian’s request for prayer over the loudspeaker, while allowing for secular messages to be delivered over the loudspeaker and other stadium communications media, constitutes content-based and viewpoint-based discrimination in contravention of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
October 21, 2016
Officials with the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center are urging residents of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties to refrain from any outdoor burning for the next several days.
The area is in the midst of an extended dry spell and a predicted cold front will bring higher winds and lower humidities. There is little no rain in the extended forecast. This combination has prompted an increase in the fire danger level for the district as well as an increase in the response level of Forest Service fire crews.
With these conditions, even well-intended backyard fires can be dangerous.
“The weather will be cooler and people will probably want to get some yard work done,” said David Smith, operations administrator for Blackwater. “Cleaning up is fine but we would recommend that folks not burn their yard debris until we see some relief.”
In addition to the warning to residents, Smith said authorizations for large piles and acreage burns will not be issued at this time.
NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.
October 21, 2016
The West Florida Jaguars defeated the Northview Chiefs 50-8 Thursday night in junior varsity football action.
NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.
October 20, 2016
Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David H. Stafford announced today that sample ballots for the November 8 General Election are being mailed to Escambia County voters this week. The sample ballot includes a ballot image, the voter’s polling location and information on the three ways to vote: early, vote-by-mail, and on Election Day. A sample ballot is also available at EscambiaVotes.com.
By Mail: Voters may vote by mail using a vote-by-mail ballot, which can be requested through the online form at EscambiaVotes.com, or by contacting the Supervisor of Elections by mail, phone (850) 595-3900, e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or fax (850) 595-3914. Requests must include the voter’s date of birth and the address, and must be received no later than Wednesday, November 2. Voted ballots must be received in the Elections Office no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day and may not be returned to a polling location. Vote-by-mail voters may track the status of their ballot at EscambiaVotes.com by clicking Track My Ballot.
Early Voting: Early voting will be available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily beginning Monday, October 24 through Saturday, November 5 at seven different locations. Early voters will cast paper ballots through our digital scanners.
Early voting will be held at the following locations and times:
o Supervisor of Elections Office, 213 Palafox Place, Second Floor
o Main Library, 239 Spring Street
o Molino Community Center, 6450-A Highway 95A, Molino
o Genealogy Branch Library, 5740 B, 9th Avenue
o Southwest Branch Library, 12248 Gulf Beach Highway
o Bellview/Saufley Early Vote Site, 916 W. Michigan Avenue
o Escambia County Extension, 3740 Stefani Road, Cantonment
At Your Precinct: The third option for voters is to cast a paper ballot at their precinct on Election Day, November 8. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. An AutoMARK ballot marking device is also available at each polling place and early voting site for persons with disabilities.
October 20, 2016
Bluff Springs Road will be closed beginning Tuesday, November 1 due to a bridge replacement required by the Florida Department of Transportation. Roadway closures are expected to remain in effect for 130 days, with the project expected to be completed around March 2017.
The scope of work includes clearing, grading, drainage, paving, signage and bridge construction approximately 300 feet east and west of the intersection of Pritchett Mill Creek and Bluff Springs Road.
There are no permanent residences located beyond the road closure, but Escambia River and camp access via Bluff Springs Road will be cut off.
October 20, 2016
Florida’s voter rolls may jump by more than 60,000 people due to a federal judge ordering an extra week for registration.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a statement late Tuesday that said 36,823 applications submitted since Oct. 11 had been verified, and another 26,773 were in the verification process. The registration deadline was originally Oct. 11, but U.S. District Judge Mark Walker extended it a week because of Hurricane Matthew.
“All Floridians who submitted a complete voter registration application in person by 5 p.m. today (Tuesday), or postmarked by today (Tuesday), will be verified and registered to vote by the start of mandatory statewide early voting, which begins on October 29,” Detzner said in the statement.
“That means if you registered by today’s (Tuesday’s) deadline, are eligible, and your registration is verified, you will have all available options to exercise your right to vote, which include: vote-by-mail, early voting, and voting at the polls on Election Day.”
Detzner’s release didn’t break down the registration applications by party.
The Florida Democratic Party went to federal court to get the deadline extended after Hurricane Matthew forced evacuations of residents and closed government buildings in the days leading up to the original Oct. 11 deadline. The latest registration numbers came as elections officials reported that 758,420 Floridians had already cast vote-by-mail ballots for the Nov. 8 general election. Of those, Republicans accounted for the largest number of returned ballots, with 316,400. Democrats had gone slightly ahead earlier in the week, but the latest numbers showed 305,626 Democrats had returned vote-by-mail ballots. Also, ballots had been returned by 20,303 people registered with third parties and by 116,091 independents.
by The News Service of Florida
October 20, 2016
An Escambia County man was killed in a motorcycle crash on an I-10 exit ramp to southbound I-110 Wednesday afternoon.
Chepan’s friend, who was traveling alongside hime, told the FHP that an unknown gray or silver SUV cut in front of Chepan, causing him to take evasive action.
With the silver or gray sport utility vehicle being in the proximity of the crash, it is being sought as a possible connection to the crash. Anybody with information on the crash or the SUV is asked to call Cpl. Fischer at (850) 484-5000.
October 20, 2016
The Northview Chiefs have named Players of the Week for their game last week against Jay.
Neikel Robinson — 7 receptions, 204 yards, 2 TD (also had 2 INT on defense)
Hunter Edwards — 12 total tackles, 2 TFL, 1 forced fumble
Seth Killam — 4-5 PAT, 1 tackle on KO; 5 “SPECIAL FORCES POINTS”
Devin Stabler — 1 solo tackle, 1 sack, 1 FF on PAT; 5 “SPECIAL FORCES POINTS”
Alston Wiggins — Hit on running back in first quarter for no gain