James T. Byrne is a 70-year-old man from Port St. Lucie who pleaded guilty to molesting a mentally handicapped child. This week, a judge sentenced him to 30 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of probation. Acting on a tip in 2009, police and federal investigators found hundreds of pictures of Byrne engaging in sex acts with the 12-year-old girl inside his home. He also made a movie of his misdeeds. Byrnes deceived neighbors into believing he was an upstanding citizen, but in reality he was a snake in rat’s clothing. Book’em, Dano!


Despite rumors to the contrary, the annual Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival will take place June 19 and 20 in Deerfield Beach. Along with numerous other businesses and organizations, the South Florida Times is a sponsor. Bobby Womack, Ronnie Laws, Monica, Rance Allen and other big-name acts will perform. For ticket or vendor space information, call 202-253-9661.

Miami-Dade County

During a Monday, June 7 hearing, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Julio Jimenez sentenced 81-year-old Orlando Alonso to 30 years in prison for killing his neighbor. At his age, he will likely die behind bars. In July 2008, Alonso shot and killed Maximiliano Devita, 38, who had come to his door to complain about Alonso’s harassment of a tenant in Devita’s condo. Alonso shot Devita, closed the door of his Miami Beach condo, and called 911. He claimed self defense. His first trial in 2009 resulted in a hung jury. After the second trial in April, Alonso was convicted of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm. Devita was the wealthy founder of the Argentina-based Che Sopranos pizza chain.

Bryan Finnie, former president of the scandal-plagued Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, was thought to be the leading candidate for the city of Homestead’s Community Redevelopment Agency’s executive director position. But after council members Judy Waldman, Jimmie L. Williams and others learned of the controversial past of the  Empowerment Trust, and his time as interim city manager in Opa-locka, he has been dropped from consideration. The Trust was supposed to help poor people start businesses. It came under fire for allegedly mishandling funds and giving loans to the politically connected.

Palm Beach County

In the past week, there have been at least thee reported home invasions in the wealthy, rural horse co­untry of Palm Beach County’s Jupiter Farms community. One of the three suspects is described as a white male, another is described as a light-skinned Hispanic male. The third was wearing a mask. The men have broken into homes, wielding assault rifles, a shotgun and semi-automatic pistols. Police have released a sketch of the white male suspect, and all are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information on the trio is asked to call Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-8477.

Riviera Beach police are reportedly pursuing new leads in the December 17, 2008 shooting death of Rashaan Gordon, known as “Roco” on the streets. His body was found in the driver’s seat of a car that was parked in the 1500 block of West 16th Street.  Police have not disclosed any motive or other information about the crime, but investigators are asking the public if anyone might have seen anything that could help them solve the case. Riviera Beach Police Det. J. Nubin can be reached at 561-714-8286. Det. S. Santos can be reached at 561-876-4658. Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for tips in the case. Anonymous tipsters may call 1-800-458-8477.

On Monday, June 7, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel said the city would offer buyouts to workers to avoid layoffs. The plan would be open to most city employees, and would pay them three months severance and medical benefits if they resign voluntarily. Like most municipalities, West Palm Beach is facing a fiscal crisis, but officials there will have to sweeten this deal to get people to quit their jobs in this economy.

Broward County

Vicente Thrower, the 30-year-old former member of several Pompano Beach advisory boards, was arrested on corruption charges April 12. Thrower was charged with two counts of unlawful compensation for his lobbying work, and one count of bribery after allegedly seeking payments from a city vendor. Among other things, Thrower is accused of pressuring Dr. Lynn Allison, president of International Enterprise Development, Inc., to pay him in exchange for his support of her micro-lending firm’s bid for a new contract with the city. The problem for Thrower is that Allison is honest, and she rebuked his sleazy financial advances. Thrower was close to a number of politicians and developers. He says he introduced developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to former County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion. During a hearing on Thursday, June 10, Eggelletion was formally sentenced to 30 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful compensation. The charge is associated with Eggelletion’s acceptance of a $50,000 bribe as well as a country club membership from the Chaits. Thrower is considering a plea deal of his own, so there are several politicians and their campaign staff who should be worried. Stay tuned.

The Broward County school district announced the layoffs of 1,305 teachers, secretaries,
and other workers on Monday, June 7. Superintendent Jim Notter is being criticized for using job cuts to close a $130 million budget shortfall. Union and parent organizations say administrative positions, take-home cars, cell phones and the like should have been considered before cutting more jobs.

If you haven’t been to a Deerfield Beach city commission meeting lately, don’t bother. It’s an embarrassing mess of a circus show! Instead of doing the people’s business, commissioners bicker, interrupt each other, and are consumed with childish finger pointing. As mayor, Peggy Noland has the authority to control these meetings, and she very well should. To her credit, Noland has been quietly contacting people, seeking advice on how to bring professionalism to the meetings, but it is now time to act. City Attorney Andy Maurodis should brief her on the use of the sergeant-at-arms, and have people, including fellow commissioners, removed from the chamber if they do not adhere to the rules.