Category Archives: Florida

Florida Woman Charged with DUI on a Horse!

donna byrne

Donna Byrne 

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has charged Donna Byrne with a DUI on a horse, after she was caught riding in the road, and blew a .161, which is twice the legal limit for driving. Here’s the thing, the DUI statute specifically says driving or in actual control of a vehicle. We’ve talked about it before– the law in Florida does not provide for a DUI on a horse. She has also been charged with animal neglect and failing to provide proper protection for the horse. I doubt this qualifies as animal neglect where there is no harm to the horse (unless she did something inherently dangerous like taking it out on the highway). She may be guilty of something, but I think she can beat the DUI!

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You Need a Permit to Kill an Alligator in Florida

molest gator

Alligator Warning Sign

Apparently it bears repeating, as a man was arrested this week in Palm Beach County for illegally killing an alligator. Yes, they are everywhere, but Florida has a complex wildlife management system, and you have to have a permit and tag before you can hunt for gators. If not, you can be convicted of a crime! Florida takes its wildlife regulations very seriously…

Hooker Arrested for Prostitution

brianna hooker

Brianna Hooker

Lee County ran an undercover prostitution sting over the weekend and picked up a hooker… Brianna Hooker. There were 14 more arrests from the operation, in addition to Ms. Hooker. The undercover detective invited her to a location where he was staying, whereupon she agreed to have sex with him, then asked if she could smoke up before she performed for him. She has an extensive history of drugs and theft related offenses, and is facing drug possession charges as well as a violation of her earlier probation for this new charge. As is so often the case, the drug abuse likely led to the theft and prostitution as she tried to feed her addiction. That’s likely the case for several of the co-defendants from this operation.

Fort Myers Pays Nate Allen $440,000 for Wrongful Arrest

nate allen

Nate Allen

The city council yesterday finalized a settlement of nearly a half-a-million dollars for NFL player Nate Allen for his wrongful arrest. (While he was detained, and ultimately released without a formal arrest, it was easily a ‘de facto arrest’ due to time and totality of the circumstances.) It was enough to make the news, especially since he is a professional football player. Even though he was released that day, the suit was worth a lot more because of the demonstrable negative effects it had on his NFL contract situation. Worse, the FMPD chief at the time, Doug Baker, was caught lying in the investigation into the cover-up, leading ultimately to his termination. The entire incident was a black eye on the city. To the council’s credit, they recognized the wrongdoing, and have repeatedly apologized. Neither the chief, nor the detective on the case are still with the city. Sawyer Smith handled the case for Allen, and tells me he is as nice a guy you could ever meet.

Sadly, the lessons are still being learned. Just a few months ago I encountered a case where the FMPD utilized the same faulty show-up procedure to identify someone, in spite of the pending lawsuit. The state ended up dropping the case. Meanwhile, the 2-year anniversary of Zombie-con has passed with no arrests, charges, or even named suspects. And just last week, more details have come out about the officers suspended after the Freeh Report. FMPD has a long way to go…

Man Gets $37,000 after Doughnut Arrest

daniel rushing

Daniel Rushing

Daniel Rushing was arrested in 2015 when an officer mistook the glaze from his Krispy Kreme doughnut for Crystal Meth. He bonded out after 10 hours, even though he should not have been locked up at all. He sued the maker of the field test kit, as well as the city, who failed to properly train their officer on how to use the field test. They settled this week for $37,500. That’ll buy Mr. Rushing a lot of doughnuts!

This kind of thing happens more often than you would think. I saw a guy get arrested for patchouli that the officer said tested positive for heroin. A man in Ovideo was recently held for 90 days until a lab test proved that his drywall was not cocaine. He may be seeking an even more substantial lawsuit, that the taxpayers are going to end up footing. And to compound his problems, he may not be able to get the arrest record expunged because he has a prior history, which prohibits expungement under current Florida law.

News of this settlement comes as the City of Fort Myers seeks to finalize a settlement for wrongly arresting football star Nate Allen: which crimcourts will be following closely.

‘Welcome to Key West’ sign “Returned” in Fort Myers

key west signThe iconic “Welcome to Key West” sign that greeted visitors as a “Welcome to Paradise” when they drove into the island city was knocked down after Hurricane Irma. Somebody made off with it in the days after the storm, and the Key West Rotary club made multiple pleas for the sign to be returned. Well, the ‘thieves’, or maybe they were safe-keepers, had second thoughts, and dropped the sign off at the Key West Express at the Fort Myers Beach depot this morning. Wink News happened to be on hand for a story about the Express, and went live with footage of the sign being loaded onto the Key West Express, who are taking it back to Key West today. That’s one way to get a scoop!

Murdered Children and ‘Honey Bun Hits’: A brutal look at Juvenile Corrections in Florida

This week the Miami Herald dropped a bombshell on Florida’s juvenile justice system and the Department of Juvenile Justice. They spent two years researching the last 10 years of juvenile justice history to prepare a report they call “Fight Club.” It’s a devastating read.

The Herald found multiple instances of violence against juveniles. Some from the guards, and others from inmates, sometimes at the behest of guards who would reward them with Honey Buns or other items from the commissary. The article points to low pay, inadequate personnel screening and standards, and tolerance for cover-ups. Indeed, Time and again the Herald found that guards involved in the violence, including juvenile death, were not criminally charged (much like the adult guards in the CCI homicide a couple years back.)

One of the facilities highlighted was here in SW Florida, at the Fort Myers Youth Academy. The Herald says the Youth Academy is a microcosm, “steeped in violence and a culture of coercive cover-ups.” It details guards that were hired, even though they’d been fired from previous prison guard jobs for sexual harassment and bribery to hide abuse. It sounds like the troublemakers cited in the report no longer work there, but the account is troubling.

DJJ filed a lengthy response. Unfortunately, the lives lost by years of abuse cannot be brought back, but hopefully a true culture change can prevent such abuses in the future.