Report out of Miami today that an African Grey parrot named Cuca was taken from a home by burglars, along with jewelry and guns. Cuca knew hundreds of words. At least one thief was caught, but Cuca was not recovered. The owner heard on the streets that she was killed to keep her quiet about the identity of the thieves. Miami out Miamis itself, again.
We previously covered the story of former Miss Hialeah and Miss Miami Lakes, Vanessa Barcelo. Barcelo was initially arrested for aggravated battery for threatening a man who refused to leave her party after causing a serious disturbance. The state determined that she did not strike anyone with the bat, but proceeded a misdemeanor battery charges as Ms. Barcelo slapped the man at the end of the altercation. After a 9-hour hearing, the court found that the man’s refusal to leave, and since he had taken the bat, meant her fear was justified, and dismissed the case under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Now Barcelo is suing the cop and the Hialeah Police Department for the arrest, and for propagating the story that she beat hit the guy with a bat. While police are generally immune from suits, this suit alleges that the officer was grossly negligent, and relies on language in the stand your ground statute that compels police to investigate and determine whether there was justification for the force used. Working against the civil defendants is that Barcelo indicates the officer would not even take a statement from her, there were multiple witnesses who stated she had not struck him with the bat, and the alleged victim was drunk, and initiated the incident when he refused to leave her house when it appeared had had attempted to assault her cousin.
One of the less discussed aspects of the stand your ground law is that it is supposed to help prevent charges like the ones on Ms. Barcelo. It is explicit that officers are supposed to do a little more digging, and to be very sure that force was necessary before they make any arrests. They could be in trouble here, in light of the facts and the sloppy investigation. This is one of the rare circumstances where the cop and the police force may face consequences for their wrongful arrest.
Federal prosecutors in Miami-Dade have obtained a federal civil-rights violation indictment against former juvenile detention guard Antwan Johnson. After a three-year investigation, authorities found that Johnson used honey buns and other rewards to encourage other juvenile detainees to attack one of the minors being housed there, Elord Revolte, who died from the beating. Johnson faces several federal criminal charges that could result in a sentence of up to life in prison. The Feds apparently picked up the case after the State failed to pursue charges.
Somehow, the Johnson was still working as a guard at the detention facility, as authorities arrested him as he was arriving for work. More troubling, the information in the indictment indicates what the Herald reported months ago: that the bounty system used by Johnson was commonly utilized by other guards as well. Johnson is now charged with violating the civil rights of the young man, resulting in his death. He’s charged with orchestrating the attack on one of the children he was paid to protect. It remains to be seen if there will be action on spate of adult prison deaths that the Herald has similarly covered.
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller caught a hammerhead shark while fishing in Florida, and posted pictures on social media. Miller is well known, not only for being Super Bowl MVP, but he has also done a lot of commercials and even appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Now he’s in hot water as there may be an investigation since hammerheads are a protected species. The video, embedded in the TMZ article, shows that the shark was released alive, but it also shows the shark was bleeding on the boat, and distressed when returned to the water.
I don’t think Miller is in the wrong here, as he has video showing the shark’s release. FWC will still conduct an investigation, but it won’t need to be too intensive. It appears he is on a fishing charter. It’s incumbent on the captain to ensure that the animals are treated humanely by everyone on board, and returned safely. Miller could be facing misdemeanor criminal charges. I don’t see any charges for Viller, and hopefully, the shark was ok.
More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than any year in history.
The death rate spiked 20 percent.
Charlotte Correctional Institute has had a spate of questionable inmate deaths, most recently Brodrick Campbell.
Yesterday, reporter Sarah Blaskey at the Miami Herald published an in-depth exposé on the recent spike in prison deaths among inmates of Florida’s Department of Corrections (DOC). More inmates died last year while incarcerated in Florida’s prison than any year on record. The increase in deaths is particularly shocking, in that Florida’s crime and incarceration rates have been on the decline for several years. Charlotte Correctional Institute (CCI), just south of Punta Gorda, has been one of the leading facilities for inmate deaths.
There are not answers for the increased death rate, and many of the deaths are still under investigation- or the results have not been published. One possible explanation proposed by DOC that many of the deaths are caused by drug overdoses in prison. Drugs and contraband in prison have always been a problem, and addiction and overdoses have been on the rise outside of prison, as well. Unfortunately, there are few rehabilitation programs in jail, and drug addiction frequently goes untreated, though drugs are quite often a factor in the underlying crime that lead to incarceration.
One of the cases discussed was the death of Brodrick Campbell, an inmate we’ve discussed here. This young man was found dead under curious circumstances at Charlotte Correctional last year. The case is still under investigation, and the official word is that he committed suicide, which immediately struck me as odd for such a young man. A review of his case discovered that he was only sentenced to prison for three years, was a minimum security inmate, and had less than two years remaining. His family has since described a family man, who had young children who would often visit him. The explanation of suicide doesn’t make sense, and his relatives certainly don’t believe it. Based on previous history, there is a real fear that this or other deaths have come at the hands of guards.
Answers for this crisis are difficult, as it is for the problems at Juvenile Justice. DOC guards are underpaid, and for that reason retention is low. That means DOC trains them, but the good ones don’t stay, and often leave for other job: often better paying jobs in county jails, and DOC has to start all over with new hires. Accountability needs to increase as well: investigations need to lead to consequences, unlike the infamous Matthew Walker situation at CCI. It’s troubling to hear that video surveillance ends up missing, and investigations drag on for years without satisfactory explanation. Kudos to Ms. Blaskey, the Miami Herald,, and the Charlotte Sun, who has also had award-winning coverage of the issue.
Vanessa Barcelo, the 2017 Miss Miami Lakes that competed in the Miss Florida pageant, had been charged with battery from an incident that occurred at a party at her home several months ago. She hosted a party to promote her baking business, One Love Cakes, and her cousin over-indulged. She and other party-goers became concerned that the DJ was going to take advantage of the cousin, and grouped together to escort him out. That’s when the real trouble started…
Vanessa Barcelo, via facebook
Barcelo said she took an aluminum baseball bat and brandished it to intimidate the DJ, though she never touched him. She says he proceeded to grab the bat out of her hand and swing it around, before he handed it to a community security guard. A friend of Barcelo’s then struck the DJ, knocking him to the ground, at which point Barcelo jumped on top of him and slapped him. She testified in court that she did not know if he still had the bat, and she was afraid for herself and her guests. The court found her actions to be reasonable, and dismissed the battery charges against her.