The South Florida Times is proud to introduce Brittany Hopwood, an 18-year-old senior at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She is majoring in creative writing, and is this year’s summer intern at the newspaper. You can see her brilliance, starting this week, on page B4, in this week’s Metro section. Also, watch her video online at SFLTimes.com.
OFF AND RUNNING
Gov. Charlie Crist announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is running for governor. Alex Sink, Florida’s chief financial officer, also filed to run for the Democratic nomination for governor. The political season is well underway, and we can expect to see other big name politicians showing up. Crist won a convincing victory over Democratic nominee Jim Davis in the 2006 gubernatorial race. That win was due in large part to his crossover appeal, and the record number of black voters who chose a Republican candidate. At the present, Crist is the frontrunner, but things are different now. He has not delivered on some campaign promises, like property-insurance relief, and he has reneged on his pledge not to cut education funding. He will also have to deal with fellow Republicans who are livid over some of his policy stances. But what could really hurt him will be the army of local black Republicans who helped him get elected in 2006; they have now soured on him. Privately, some are complaining that after getting elected, Crist has ignored them. And let’s not forget how he was joined at the hip with bumbling Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and his hapless vice-presidential mistake, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Crist could be seen on stage with them at rallies throughout the state, grinning, as the two clowns hurled racially tinged insults at now-President Barack Obama. Yes, the political season is here, and it should be a blast.
Leara Scott is a 92-year-old Oakland Park resident who stopped using city water in 2006 after she says she got sick from drinking it. Since that time, she has been using her sprinkler well water for bathing and washing clothes, and buys bottled water for cooking and drinking. That’s why she was shocked to get an April 27 notice from the city’s Water Department, threatening to turn off her water if she does not come up with the $3,049.52 the city says she owes. City officials said they would look into it, but that has not happened, and they are demanding payment. I was at her home in March, and again this week, and the meter reading is the same. I contacted City Manager John Stunson for an explanation, and will let you know what happens.
The trial in a malicious prosecution and wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Broward Sheriff’s Office by one of its former deputies, Raymond Hicks, is now underway. Testimony began on Monday, May 10, and the trial is expected to last at least two weeks. Hicks sat in a federal prison on drug trafficking charges for more than a year after a multi-agency task force relied on information from a convicted felon and informant. The informant apparently duped investigators into believing that Hicks was somehow involved in drug trafficking. The evidence was questionable, and after a month-long trial, Hicks was acquitted in just minutes. His lawsuit contends he was targeted by BSO after he challenged the treatment of suspects who were being beaten in the county jails where he worked. During his stay in prison, he lost his home to foreclosure, and his family went hungry. Hicks says he went to his place of worship, New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, for help with groceries, but he was turned away. After his acquittal, BSO refused to rehire him, and for years he could not find a job because of the charges. Now, he is working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a detention deputy, alongside some of the same guards who watched over him while he was in federal prison. Several current and former BSO deputies have already testified in the case, and former Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne, who was convicted of public corruption and removed from office in 2007, is also on the witness list.
Frank Reyes, 17, was convicted of shooting and killing a drug customer in 2007 who was $2 short of the $10 price for a bag of marijuana he was selling. The killing took place in Sunrise on June 23, 2005. He rejected a plea offer of 20 years prior to the trial, but now faces a minimum-mandatory 25 years, and up to life in prison for the
second-degree murder conviction. Book’em, Dano!
Adrianne Lemons, 25, of Deerfield Beach, is the mother of one child, and is pregnant with another child. Even though she has been paying her rent, she can no longer live in her apartment because the landlord’s property is in foreclosure. The landlord is no longer maintaining the property. The apartment is in disgusting condition, so much so that housing officials cut off the Section 8 rent subsidies. While Lemons struggles to find other living quarters, the landlord refuses to return her $1,300 deposit, which only makes the task even more difficult. The Legal Aid Service of Broward County says it will look into the situation, and will take legal action if necessary. I hope so.
Palm Beach County
The Afro-centric Joseph Littles Nguzo Saba Charter School in West Palm Beach continues to struggle, but the school is coming along. Enrollment is up from 64 on opening day to 115 students at present. School founder Amefika Geuka says times remain tough, but the school, which educates students deemed academically or behaviorally unfit, will remain open. Good.
LIBERTY CITY SIX
After two mistrials, five of the six Miami men who came to be known as the Liberty Six have been convicted on terror charges. One other was acquitted. The men were caught up in a 2006 sting in which they thought they were joining al-Qaida in a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, and to bomb government buildings in South Florida. Those convicted on Tuesday May 12 were Narseal Batiste, 35; Patrick Abraham, 29; Rothschild Augustine, 25; Burson Augustin, 24; and Stanley Grant Phanor, who is 33. Naudimar Herrera, 25, was acquitted.
PRESCHOOL TEACHER CHARGED
Jean E. Dorvil, a 56-year-old preschool teacher at Charles Drew Elementary School in Miami, was arrested on Tuesday, May 12, and is sitting in jail with no bond. He allegedly kicked and beat students in his classroom. He is charged with aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm, three counts of battery, and two counts of child abuse for allegedly kicking a 5-year-old girl in the face. He allegedly kicked her because she went to the bathroom when she was supposed to be napping. The child was reportedly bloodied when she arrived home, and the mother called police after being told what happened. Other students then came forward with allegations that they, too, were beaten by Dorvil earlier this year.