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8 posts from July 11, 2014

July 11, 2014

Crews' visit to Dade prison exposes yet another inmate death

The visit by the head of Florida's prison system to the Dade Correctional Institution on Thursday produced more than a show of interest in the suspicious death of an inmate more than two years ago. It also led to an unexpected revelation: the suspicious death of another inmate the day before.

Department of Corrections Secretary Michaal Crews announced in a news release late Friday that he had suspended deputy warden Royce Dykes, who has now officially retired from government, because he and Warden Jerry Cummings had concealed Thursday’s prison death, which Crews said occurred in the prison’s infirmary, allegedly related to a fall. 

Crews on Thursday had announced the suspension of Cummings amid a firestorm over the 2010 death of mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey in June 2012. Raineys' body was found two hours after guards placed him in a scalding shower, allegedly as punishment for defecating in his cell.

Miami-Dade police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating the death of the second, unnamed, inmate, the release said.  

“It is astonishing that the same day I was visiting Dade Correctional another inmate was reported dead,” Crews said in the statement released late Friday. "The fact that I did not have the full picture of this recent inmate death at the time of my visit to the facility is simply alarming."  

Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma told DOC officials on Friday that the inmate who died a day earlier apparently died of natural causes, Crews said in the release on Friday night. More by Julie K. Brown here. 

Here's Crews' statement: 

Continue reading "Crews' visit to Dade prison exposes yet another inmate death" »

One thing is certain about redistricting ruling: November uncertainty

The court ruling that invalidated Florida’s congressional districts this week will give voters in November’s elections something they are used to: uncertainty.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis rejected the Legislature’s 2012 congressional map and specifically ordered two of the state’s 27 districts redrawn to comply with the state’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, should see her sprawling district become more compact and follow traditional political boundaries, Lewis ruled. And U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, should have his Orlando-based district revamped to eliminate the partisan advantage that came when lawmakers swapped out Hispanic Democrats for white Republicans.

Among the harsh criticism Lewis directed at the Republican-controlled Legislature was that they allowed “improper partisan intent” to infiltrate the redistricting process and seemingly ignored evidence that partisan political operatives were “making a mockery” out of their attempts to conduct themselves with transparency.

Lewis also retained jurisdiction over the case, meaning any remedy will have to be approved by him. How and when that happens is not clear and Lewis did not give any guidance.

Republicans uniformly said Friday that they are reviewing the ruling and won’t comment. Privately, some suggest that the remedy is simple — the Legislature need only adopt a previous version of the congressional map and be done.

But lawyers for the coalition led by the League of Women Voters that brought the legal challenge disagree. More here. 


Nan Rich on a Scott vs. Crist race: 'Two Republicans'

The News Service of Florida's Jim Saunders reports on Nan Rich's speech Friday to the Florida Society of News Editors:

Nan Rich is frustrated. That much is clear. But the lifelong Democrat and former Senate minority leader isn't backing down.

She told news executives and editors Friday that she will continue battling for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and trying to draw distinctions with opponent Charlie Crist, despite many of the party's fundraisers and leaders lining up behind Crist, a former Republican.

"We need to make sure we don't have two Republicans running in the gubernatorial election,'' Rich said during a forum that was part of the annual convention of the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

Rich wanted to debate Crist during the press gathering but was rebuffed. During an appearance Thursday, Crist said he needed to stay focused on challenging Republican Gov. Rick Scott and pointed to the massive amounts of money backing Scott's re-election bid.

"I am running against $100 million,'' Crist said. "I really don't have the luxury to take my eye off the ball."

That irked Rich. "People don't run against $100 million,'' she said. "They run against people."

Rich remains a longshot in the Aug. 26 primary.

Pro-Scott sheriffs blast Crist's 10-20-Life remarks

With the Florida media, and especially TV, feasting on the story of why on-duty working cops would be at a campaign event for Gov. Rick Scott (which is barred by law), his handlers knew just what to do Friday: try to change the subject.

So Scott's campaign rolled out a statement from 23 sheriffs who accused Democrat Charlie Crist of a "reversal" on his past support for minimum mandatory prison sentences in the state's 10-20-Life law. "Charlie Crist's reversal on his support of 10-20-Life legislation and mandatory minimums threatens the incredible progress we have made over the last 15 years to make Florida safe for families and visitors," their statement said.

Crist told a statewide gathering of news editors Thursday that the Legislature should review the 10-20-Life law after hearing of a case in which a man was sentenced to 80 years in prison for firing a gun into the air.

The Associated Press quoted Crist as saying: "I'm always open-minded to looking at those kinds of things. When you're faced with new facts, I think you ought to listen."


From the AP's account: Crist responded to a question about the case of Ronald Williams, who is serving four minimum mandatory 20-year prison terms after being convicted of pointing a gun at four gay men who were whistling and ogling him from a neighbor's Riviera Beach home, then firing into the air several times. Nobody was hurt. The judge who sentenced Williams said the law gave him no leeway and that the sentences had to run consecutively -- effectively handing down a life sentence for Williams, who was 26 at the time of the crime.

Williams has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that judges should have more discretion. "It doesn't sound fair and it doesn't sound equitable," Crist said. "I think fairness should be the standard on which we look at any statute."


Sweetwater mayor, commissioner dais squabble turns to convicted ex-mayor

By Rodolfo Roman

Sweetwater Mayor Jose Diaz and Commissioner Isolina Maroño clashed last week over the way the city is being run.

The trouble began when Diaz presented candidates for director positions in two departments. Maroño felt they weren’t qualified — and blamed herself for supporting Diaz to become mayor after the conviction of her son, former Mayor Manny Maroño, in a federal bribery case.

“We appointed him,” she said of Diaz. “It was an error on my end. I apologize; because of me he is there.

“I thought he had other qualifications. At this moment, he doesn’t care about the city. It’s his campaign since the second day he became mayor.”

Countered Diaz: “If anyone should shut their mouth when it comes to employing someone in regards to political campaigns it’s you and your entire family.”

Isolina Maroño said Diaz has discredited the city by calling the media to announce firing employees.

Diaz fired back: “The one who has discredit for the city is you and your son,” he said. “You didn’t know what to do as a mom to correct your son.”

Commissioner Manuel Duasso intervened to stop the quarrel.

Miami Beach mayor publishes book about campaign


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine published his own book about his political campaign.

He’s giving away copies of the about 150 page coffee table book called The Journey.

“When we started looking at all the photographs from the campaign, we thought they were so cool that it would be neat to put it in book format,” Levine said.

The multimillionaire mayor owns a media company that works with the cruise industry. Levine estimated he spent $10,000 to $15,000 of his own money printing about 4,000 copies.

The cover features his signature red Nike sneakers. Inside, the pages list facts like how many doors Levine knocked on (6,000, his team says). The book also features the endorsement speech former President Bill Clinton gave for Levine, the mayor said.


David Rivera suspends Miami congressional campaign


His reputation tainted by scandal, former Miami Congressman David Rivera vowed he would return to politics.

He did — for 72 days. On Friday, just over two months after launching a new campaign for his old seat, Rivera has called it quits, at least for now.

Rivera, who is under federal investigation in a campaign-finance scheme, said Friday he is suspending his congressional bid.

But he said it had nothing to do with the FBI probe — which he refuses to discuss — and everything with a ruling Thursday from a judge in Tallahassee.

“As a congressional candidate affected by this decision, I will not be held hostage by Florida’s liberal activist judges,” he said in an email to supporters.

Rivera cited “great uncertainty” following the ruling that invalidated two of Florida’s congressional district boundaries — even though neither of the districts was the one Rivera sought to represent.

More here.

This post has been updated.

Redistricting ruling: George Washington, appendages and detective work

Judge Terry Lewis took less than a month to write his opinion invalidating Florida's congressional map after receiving the final, written briefs from the parties but it is chock full of analysis, including some of his own detective work that led to him raise questions about the behavior of legislators and political operatives that we hadn't seen raised at trial.

Parts of it read as if he's piecing together a spy novel. (Lewis is, after all author of a few of those.)

Here's our first story. Here's the ruling. Let us know what you think and give us your observations. Download Romo.Final Judgment.July 10, 2014