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A Sigh of Relief: It’s Over!

November 30th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

After holding their breath for 182 days, Floridas are breathing a collective sigh of relief. Today is the end of the 2006 Hurricane season, and As Mike Vasilinda tells us, state officials say its still a good idea to have a plan.
vasilinda-hurricane-ender.mp3

The first scare came just 11 days after hurricane season began. Alberto threatened, then fizzled. Later, Ernesto came in August, brining rain and little else for Floridians.
So it was with smiles on their faces that state officials dropped the flag on hurricane season.

Across the state, a collective sigh of relief. Resident we talked with were Happy
Glad its over Fantastic Relieved.

The remnants are of two bad years are still showing up in mailboxes in the form of higher insurance premiums… and theres no immediate relief in sight.

Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings says even a good year like 2006 isnt enough to lower rates. A couple more good years will help us because in fact as the risk continues to diminish, the insurers will return to the market with lower prices but it wont happen overnight. says Jennings.

State lawmakers meet in mid January to work on insurance. But anything they accomplish that could result in savings to you could take a year or more to work their way into policy renewals.

State officials are urging homeowners in coastal counties to get a free home inspection and figure out how to fortify their homes before the next hurricane season. 13 thousand homes have already been inspected and 45 thousand more are on the waiting list. You can sign up for the program at www.mysafefloridahome.com

Anchor Tag: State officials are urging homeowners in coastal counties to get a free home inspection and figure out how to fortify their homes before the next hurricane season. 13 thousand homes have already been inspected and 45 thousand more are on the waiting list. You can sign up for the program at www.mysafefloridahome.com

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Anderson family says Justice is at Hand

November 28th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Seven sheriffs Deputies and a nurse who stood by while Martin Lee Anderson was beaten and suffocated to death are being charged with criminal manslaughter of a child. The charge is a first degree felony and could result to up to 30 years in Prison. As Mike Vasilinda reports, the Anderson family is relieved that justice now appears on track after almost a year of waiting.

vasilinda-boot-camp-package.mp3
Gina Jones and Robert Anderson were brought by the attorney from Panama City to Tallahassee in part for their safety. The family has faced threats in the past as they pushed for criminal charges against those responsible for 14 year old Martins death.
Facing reporters for the first time, they express relief.Today is a good day for me. Im finally getting justice for my baby. said Gina Jones. Father Robert Anderson was equally relieved. I just want to say that it feels like a brick has been lifted off my shoulders and tonight I might get me some rest.

Both Gina and Robert cried as they thought about their first Christmas without their son.
Gina has already decorated her sons grave. No Martin. No Christmas. Me and my daughter went out there and dressed up his grave for Christmas. Thats Christmas from us to Martin.

Attorney Ben Crump called the charges A bold step, but its a big step. Its a step a lot of people doubtCrump says he expects the trial to be fair, even if it remains in Panama City.Nobody who watches that videotape will have any doubt that theyre guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of not acting humane.

The family and Jeb Bush have at times been at odds over this case, but as 7 guards and a nurse face charges 11 months after Martins death, they both share the feeling that the system is working.

Anderson died last January 6th. He was rushed to the hospital after spending just two hours in the Bay County Boot Camp. Videotape released last spring created an uproar among state legislators who eventually closed all of the boot camps in the state. The State Attorney also investigated the Sheriffs Office, the Department of Law Enforcement, and the Medical Examiner and has determined none of the agencies engaged in improper conduct. FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnel did resign this past summer after emails showed he was communicating with the Sheriffs office about the investigation.

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Sheriff McKeithen Issues Statement

November 28th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Sheriff McKeithen Issues Statement

Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen issued the following statement today in reference to the latest developments in the Martin Anderson case:

At approximately 9 oclock this morning I was notified by Mark Obers office that they were at the Bay County Courthouse in the process of obtaining eight warrants for the arrest of the drill instructors and the nurse involved in the Martin Anderson investigation.

I was advised the charges would be Aggravated Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence. I understand seven of the drill instructors have been arrested at this time.

This has been a lengthy, complex, and intense investigation. Mr. Obers office has made the decision to charge these individuals with a criminal offense and they now will have the right to a trial.

Despite continued allegations and accusations of cover up, misconduct, and conspiracy relating to the original investigation by the Bay County Sheriffs Office and other agencies involved, Mr. Obers office has determined these to be false and absolutely unfounded.

It is now time for the attention to be focused on the facts at hand and to only hope that justice will prevail.

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Deputies to Surrender

November 28th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

The eight people charged with Criminal Manslaughter of a Child in the death or 14 year old Martin Lee Anderson are being allowed to surrender to authorities. They are expected to surrender today between 4 and 7 Pm Central Standard Time.

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Governor Prays for Anderson Family

November 28th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Seven Sheriffs Deputies and a nurse who stood by while Martin Lee Anderson was beaten and suffocated to death are being charges with criminal manslaughter of a child. The charge is a first degree felony and could result to up to 30 years in Prison.

Anderson died last January 6th. He was rushed to the hospital after spending just two hours in the Bay County Boot Camp. Videotape released last spring created an uproar among state legislators who eventually closed all of the boot camps in the state. This morning Governor Jeb Bush expressed his sympathy to the family.

The State Attorney also investigated the Sheriffs Office, the Department of Law Enforcement, and the Medical Examiner and has determined none of the agencies engaged in improper conduct. FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnel did resign this past summer after emails showed he was communicating with the Sheriffs office about the investigation.

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8 Charged in Boot Camp Death

November 28th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Special Prosecutor Mark Ober has charged 8 Sheriffs Deputies with Criiminal Manslaughter of a child in the death of Martin Lee Anderson last January. read the documents here:

information.pdf

gov-letter.pdf

Hear it here: Jeb Bush’s reaction to indictments

med-examiner-letter.pdf

Posted in State News | 6 Comments »

Attorney General Subpoenas Restaurant Records

November 22nd, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

The Attorney General wants to know if restaurants are substituting cheaper fish for the grouper on their menu. Subpoenas have been issued to 16 restaurants across the state and more are coming to determine if the grouper on the menu was also what was on the plate. As Mike Vasilinda Reports, Those in the industry suspect the Grouper is only there half the time.

grouper-snoopers.mp3

Jeff Stilwell has been cooking and selling fish for 3 decades.

This is haddock nice and white. Cut it. Look at it. That would pass for grouper.

He sells a lot of fish that isnt grouper….he just believes you ought not call it something it isnt.

I say promote the fish and tell em its as good as a grouper sandwich.

Florida Attorney General and soon to be Governor Charlie Crist Agrees. He has issued subpoenas to 16 restaurants.

Crist says We will utilize DNA in order to test the fish we subpoena to make sure that they are or are not grouper and if theyre not, then its probably a violation of Florida 501 statute which is unfair trade and deceptive practice.

On this plate, cobia, grouper, pollack and haddock all appear similar. They tasted slightly different, but they close enough to be confusing. The reality is, when youre ordering grouper, you may only be getting it about half the time.

The Florida fisting industry likes the crackdown. Bob Jones says cheap substitutions are hurting those trying to make an honest living.

People dont want to put on the menu that theyre selling (fish) from Vietnam. They want to say youre getting a great piece of Florida grouper. Its not true in 50% of the cases.

And as for whats on your plate. If the price for grouper is too good to be true, Jeff Stilwell says it probably isnt grouper.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

The Nation is Watching….Again!

November 21st, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida is once again garnering national attention for voting irregularities. The District 13 Congressional race wound up in a Tallahassee court room today where Circuit Judge William Gary has refused to speed up the discovery process in legal proceedings over who won the race. As Mike Vasilinda reports, the judge also turned down, at least temporarily, candidate Christine Jennings request to do an independent test on suspect voting machines.

vasilinda-11-21.mp3

Christine Jennings sat behind her lawyers, hoping the legal process will find enough votes to make her the winner in a Sarasota Congressional seat where she trails by 369 votes. Kendall Coffey, her attorney is calling it a test case for the nation. And he asked for the computer source code and an independent analysis of electronic voting machines to prove they didnt count all of the votes.

This is a case where the will of the voters of district 13 was defeated by machine error.

More than 18 thousand votes werent cast or read by the machines in the congressional race. Attorneys for the Secretary of State and the Sarasota Elections Supervisor argued allowing independent tests was a mistake. Pete Antonacci called for the upmost caution, saying

Everything that is done with these machines from this moment forward, judge, should be as fair open transparent and objective as possible.

The judge refused to allow independent testing of the machines. Or to speed the case up.

Outside, Jennings attorney Coffey was putting the best face possible on the ruling.

Frankly, we wanted more. We wanted this case to move very very quickly. It is our view that that still serves the interests of justice. Fortunately, nothing we were asking for was rejected.

As for Jennings….she was saying little.

I just want to make sure that every vote counts.

The winner is supposed to take office January 3rd.

Jennings declined to comment when asked if she would seek a political solution, by asking Democrats in Congress to seat her instead of Buchanan if the legal process goes against her.

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Anderson Parents Frustrated at Delays

November 17th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

It has been nearly 11 months since 14 year old Martin Lee Anderson died in the Bay County Boot Camp. Anderson died after guards forced ammonia tablets up his nose and held his mouth. It took nearly six months to find the true cause of death, and a special prosecutor has been investigating since early summer. Ben Crump, the parents attorney, says the parents are frustrated.

We will pray that the new administration wont keep this matter going and stay the course like this DJJ administration has done, and the prosecutor will be told to end this investigation and arrest the people who killed Martin Lee Anderson.

Martin Lee Anderson died within hours of arriving at the boot camp last January sixth. The state has since closed all existing boot camps.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Boot Camp Whistle Blower

November 17th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

A high level investigator for the Department of Juvenile Justice says he was fired for issuing a report in the Martin Lee Anderson case that condemned the actions of guards.. Steve Meredith was one of three initial investigators at the Bay County Book Camp when Anderson died last January. As Mike Vasilinda reports, Meredith and another co-worker who concluded guards acted improperly were fired, while a third investigator who disagreed kept her job.

Hear it here: DJJ Whistleblower

Martin Lee Anderson Died last January 6th. His death is still under investigation and no charges have been filed. Steve Meredith was one of three investigators from the state who were first on the site to investigate the death. After seeing the boot camp beating on videotape, Meredith concluded guards acted improperly. He and another investigator who agreed were fired. Meredith says he assessed the death for his bosses on day one.

The Secretary had asked a question about how bad this is, and I dont remember the exact wording, but either I made the statement or he asked was this as bad as Rodney King? And I made the statement that absolutely, yes it was.

A third investigator who disagreed with the other two is still working. Ben Crump, The Anderson Family Attorney who has filed suit against the state, says Meredith was let go because he will now be considered a hostile witness with less credibility than if he still worked for the State.

and what Mr. Meredith was advising is that they violated the policy. They violated their policy of using these amonia tablets. This was two months before it was concluded

that this is what killed Matin Lee Anderson.

To this day, Steven Meredith says he has not been told why he was let go.

DJJ’s Cynthia Lorenzo says that’s not true and provided the following statement:

Mr. Steve Meredith’s termination by the department was entirely unrelated to the Martin Lee Anderson investigation. The department has advised Mr. Meredith of the reasons for the termination. Mr. Meredith was an at will employee who serves at the pleasure of the secretary as stated in Florida Statute Section 110.604. We have attached the termination letter that speaks for itself. meredith-termination.pdf


Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Silver Springs Protection

November 14th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

The state is purchasing 4470 acres of sensitive land outside Ocala and near Silver Springs. The 72 million dollar purchase was lauded by politicians and environmentalists who say it will go a long way in preserving Silver Springs. State Sneator Evelyn Lynn lauded the deal.

I don’t believe there’s any other state that’s shown such great determination and concern for making sure that our children have a future. Today I want to thank Avatar. They have been very, very responsible developers. Had they developed the land, they would have done a fine job, but they saw the need to make sure things in this area needed to be cared for, preserved, protected.”

The parcel will be purchased over a two year period. Half the money is available now the other half will have to be approved by the legislature.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Feds to Restrict Fishing in Dry Tortugas

November 14th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Come summer, 46 Square miles of the Dry Tortugas national management area will be off limits to all fishing. The Governor and State Cabinet today approved a resolution, telling the national Park Service to come back in three years with a study on whether the closure has increased fish stocks of grouper and snapper. Park Superintendent David Kimball thinks the closure balances fishing and long term goals.

“Our votes are for a restored fishery, resources for future generations, but the key is at this park to provide a balance of protection and visitor enjoyment and we think we can hit the target at this point.”

Another 150 square miles of the reserve is already off limits to fishing. The Coastal Conservation Association’s Ted Forsgren rgued before the Cabinet that catch and release fishing should have been allowed. <>

Banning all fishing whatsoever including catch and release fishing ought to be the last resort, not the first measure. What you see from all the fishery studies in the park, you see the large increases in snapper and grouper and so forth, while they allow recreational fishing, so we don’t see any reason to limit all types of recreational fishing at this park to do that.

The Park Service plans an educational campaign before actually closing the area to fishing. It is hoped the closure will allow fish to grow larger, producing more eggs and improving fish stocks. The Agreement to close the area is for five years before it must be renewed by the Cabinet.

________________________________________________________________

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Governor Elect’s First Day at the Capitol

November 14th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Elect Charlie Crist today made his first trip back tot he state capitol since last weeks election. Crist took part in a Cabinet meeting where he was the only no vote on restricting fishing in the keys. As Mike Vasilinda reports, Crist answered questions about what comes next.
transition-story.mp3

Governor Jeb Bush is handing off the baton. He and Charlie Crist, Floridas next governor, appeared together before a state cabinet meeting, where Bush explained a 30 year old tradition of pre Cabinet Press Gaggles.

And one of the traditions, of course, that you canI guess you could stop it…
It looks like a lot of fun, brother. I dont know. is to talk to the press every day theres a cabinet meeting.

Crist was immediately hit by tough questions on insurance rates and electronic voting machines.

Governor-elect is it time to rethink electronic voting machines in Florida?

AhI dont know. Lets monitor whats happening in Sarasota and let the Secretary of State do some great work down there.

When Bush didnt get a hand-out during the cabinet meeting, he joked about being a short timer.

I didnt get one. Said the Governor. Ted Forsgren of the Coastal Conservation Association replied: Im sorry governor. I gave out four.

Im a lame duck.

Outside Bush was more forthcoming about his feelings. In all seriousness, this is not a sad time for me. Im really proud of him and Im you know Ive had a great ride.
There are just over 40 days in Jeb Bushs administration and while he clearly still holds the reins of power, you can feel that power shifting.

A full security detail is already assigned to the incoming Governor. For his part, Crist looks slightly tired. He has just over 6 weeks to organize a new government.

This is sort of the first public appearance Ive had. Ive been busy and were gonna continue to work hard. Said Crist.

The inauguration will take place January 2nd at noon on the Capitol steps.

The next six weeks will be busy ones for the governor elect. Charlie Crist has to assemble his team to run the various agencies of state government and come up with a new budget to submit to the state legislature.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Jeb Says Feds Should Plan for Post Castro

November 14th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Sounding more like a national politician, Governor Jeb Bush today said the Federal Government should do more to plan for pro democracy activities in a post Castro Cuba. Jeb noted that Castro appears frail on television. The governor says more money for Radio Marti and help for island insurgents would be steps forward.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Bugles Across America Fills Void

November 10th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Between 15 and 18 hundred World War Two veterans are now dying everyday. With so many funerals, there arent enough buglers to honor the deceased by playing taps, so fake bugles or even boom boxes are used. Now a non profit organization is stepping in to fill the void.

bugler-story.mp3

World War II veteran James Bowen was laid to rest recently. From across the cemetery, taps rang out, courtesy of a volunteer bugler who drove a hundred miles to be there.

John Cooksey served in WWII with James Bowen. Say Bowen He served under Patton. Is that right? His idol was George Patton.

WW II vets are dying at the rate of ten thousand a week. With so many vets passing, many families are being forced to settle for either a fake bugle or a boom box to play taps. Thats where Bugles Across America comes in. This non profit organization of volunteer buglers tries to fill the shortage. For Jimmy Bowens grandson, William Sunday, says having a real bugler meant all the difference in the world.

God bless. Its an honor for me to be here.

Thank you

God bless you.

It really meant a lot to him and to all of us here.

Thats why I do it is for yall and for him.

Most volunteer buglers are former military and for them being a part of Bugles across America is a way to continue serving. Sgt John Grey says of the duty

There are only 24 notes in taps and four different octaves is all there is. Its the strongest 24 notes youll ever play.

The military only has 500 buglers not enough to do the job and thats where the volunteers come in.

Bugles Across America has a web site where you can request a bugler or make a contribution: www.buglesacrossamerica.org

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