Category Archives: Florida

Babcock Ranch Ordered by Feds to Stop Using Autonomous School Bus

Transdev AV School Shuttle

Transdev shuttle in Babcock Ranch

TheĀ U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shut down an experimiental student shuttle program that had gotten underway in the new town of Babcock Ranch, in southern Charlotte County, Florida. The town had been advertising the autonomous student shuttle, which picked up students and transported them to school one day per week. While Transdev, the company that operates the shuttle had gotten permission from NHTSA to utilize the shuttles for a demo project, using the project as a school bus requires substantially more oversight from regulators. And even though they are calling it a shuttle, it ferries multiple children to school, so it certainly qualifies as a school bus.

I guess the good news is, I have not heard any complaints about the shuttle experiment in Babcock Ranch, and more importantly, no indications of any injuries. Perhaps they can continue the autonomous shuttle project in the town, just not as a school shuttle until it complies with the safety regulations. They are trying a lot of new things in Babcock Ranch, ‘America’s First Solar Town’, and there are going to be hiccups and growing pains… so it’s probably not best to try it out on the kids.

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Florida Woman Attacks Man with Knife when he Refused to have Sex

katharine nieves tavares ug

Katherine Nieves-Tavares

Katherine Nieves-Tavares of Vero Beach had been drinking when she allegedly pulled a knife and cut the face of her boyfriend, who had declined her repeated requests for sex. He had been sitting on the couch when she starting asking, and when she started yelling, he went out side. She followed him out with a large kitchen knife, and started slashing with the knife. Officers observed numerous cuts on his face, which was covered in blood. Nieves-Tavares was also bloodied when she answered the door. She claims that he already had a cut on his face, and that when she asked him about it, he attacked her. Officers indicated that she failed to give any specific information that would corroborate her story. She has been charged with Aggravated Battery.

samantha mears

Samantha Mears

This reminds me of another woman who attacked her lover for sex earlier this year in Minnesota. Samantha Mears allegedly subdued her ex-boyfriend with a machete and forced him to have sex with her. Since her arrest, Mears has been found to be unfit for trial due to mental health issues, and has been admitted to a state hospital for treatment. That will put a hold on her case, though she could end up being prosecuted if the treatment is able to restore her.

Zoekeeper named “Joe Exotic” Indicted for Murder-for-Hire Plot against ‘Rival’ Zookeeper in Florida

 

joe exotic

Joe Exotic

An Oklahoma zookeeper, who ran a big-cat shelter and billed himself as “Joe Exotic“, has been indicted and arrested for attempted murder-for-hire for attempting to hire multiple hitmen to kill the CEO of a an animal sanctuary in Florida. Joe “Exotic” Maldanado-Passage, 55, who ran a tiger petting zoo in Oklahoma, had a years-long feud with Carole Baskin, the CEO of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, regarding the efforts of animal sanctuaries to effectively boycott Exotic’s travelling zoo for what it claimed were harsh treatment of young tigers. Exotic had retaliated, which led to Baskin suing him, and being awarded judgment against him in excess of $1 million dollars. Exotic has allegedly offered to pay two different people to murder Baskin, but authorities were able to foil his efforts. He has previously made threats to Baskin, and even broadcast them himself on Youtube. The case is in the Federal system, presumably due to the interstate issues of his scheme.

Exotic has garnered some notoriety for his ill-fated campaigns for President and Governor of Oklahoma. Take a few minutes to watch, it’s indescribable…

Punta Gorda Lawyer Suspended due to Incarceration

steven burch

Steven Burch

Attorney Steven Burch, who had about 44 cases pending, primarily in Charlotte County, has been suspended indefinitely by the Florida Bar. Burch was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in 2016, but continued to practice until recently. He was incarcerated after new charges were added, and his bond was revoked for violation of pretrial release conditions. Burch had arranged for a client to send the drugs, allegedly to then try to cooperate with law enforcement to get out of his own DUI charge. He had his client arrange to ship heroin, which he then disclosed to law enforcement. Unbeknownst to him, his client’s wife recorded the arrangement, and Burch ended up going down. He entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute, and faces up to 20 years in prison on that charge.

I’m going to tag this “reverse entrapment”, as it wasn’t law enforcement that set a guy up… it was his own attorney. And this will almost certainly, hopefully, be the only time I use that tag! Though, it is kind of similar to the Easter case from California

Supreme Court Oral Arguments on Two Ballot Issues start this afternoon at 2:00 PM

Florida Supreme CourtProposed Amendment 6 and proposed Amendment 8 were both found to be misleading, and circuit courts in Leon county enjoined the state from including either on the ballot. This afternoon, starting at 2:00 pm with Amendment 8, followed by arguments on Amendment 6 at about 2:40, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on both issues. You can watch live on their video feed at gavel-to-gavel.

Another Florida Constitutional Amendment Proposal has been Ordered off the Ballot

This week, a Leon County judge enjoined the State from including proposed Amendment 6 from appearing on the ballot. There have already been a couple provisions stricken, and now the court has found a third violates the “truth in packaging” requirement the the description accurately inform the public of the contents and effect of the proposed amendment. As we discussed on the last one, there is a pattern apparent that the CRC decided to try to cram the amendments through by hiding the ball, as well as bundling multiple issues into several of the proposals. The courts have been unimpressed, as challengers are now 3 for 3 in their attempts to strike the amendments.

Amdendment 6 was problematic not just because it combined disparate subjects: victim’s rights, term limits for judges, and de novo review of administrative hearings. Amendment 6 was also flying under the banner of “victim’s rights”, (as it’s being pushed by a special interest group promoting ‘Marsy’s Law’), however, it was misleading because Florida already has a Victim’s Rights component to its Constitution, and this amendment would not only create additional victim’s rights, but it would likely infringe upon due process rights of the accused, as required under the federal Constitution. The court found multiple reasons that the title and summary of the proposal are incomplete or outright misleading, and has ordered that it not appear on the ballot.

The issue has been appealed, and it appears the Supreme Court of Florida will hear argument on it September 5, which I believe to be the same day they will hear argument on proposed Amendment 8.

Congrats to Amira Fox on her Primary Vicgtory

amira fox

Amira Fox

Amira Fox won the Republican primary in the race for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. That effectively means she will win the seat. This is a relief for everyone working in the criminal justice system in Southwest Florida, as things tend to run pretty well at the State here, and the kind of wholesale changes her opponent planned could have started chaos in our justice system. Ms. Fox was clearly the best candidate, and has the smarts and experience to do the job well.

I hope that when Ms. Fox takes over, she does look to improve some of the things about the State Attorney’s office: it would be nice to see more consistency from county to county, a reduction in jail time for non-violent crimes, especially misdemeanors like marijuana possession, and being willing to admit when a case is bad. Generally, the office has been pretty well run since Ms. Fox took over as chief assistant, and it probably will continue to be so. Ms. Fox ran a good, honest campaign and did not stoop to the dishonesty and mudslinging of her opponent. Hopefully this will show that races can be won the right way, by the best candidate. I wish her luck.