Three youth football coaches and a 14-year-old player have been criminally charged with assaulting a referee in last weekend's videotaped brawl at a game in southwest Florida.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said Friday that all four will face a felony charge of battery on a sports official. If convicted they could face up to four years in prison.
The incident was captured on video Saturday in a game between 13- and 14-year-old players. It got national attention this week when the video was turned over to the sheriff's office and released to the media.
The video shows the referee, 41-year-old Jayme Ream, scuffling with the coaches over a call and then being tackled by the 14-year-old Sarasota Gators player.
The team has been kicked out of the league.
A new treatment that was tested at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa became available this week for patients with metastasized melanoma.
Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Once that happens, the median survival rate is six to 12 months.
But, a new drug tested at Moffitt offers hope for extending life. Moffitt researcher Dr. Jeffrey Webber said it works by targeting and turning off a protein inside the tumor that makes it grow.
“What this drug does is give you a quick hit on the tumor, that is it gives a quick amount of shrinkage of the tumor and the hope is that you can add to it other drugs that will maintain shrinkage over the long term and prolong survival and give you a hope of curing these patients,” he said.
According to Webber, 50 percent of patients enrolled in the research trial benefitted from the drug, which is administered in pill form, twice a day. Webber says the side effects are quite moderate. Moffitt is one of three centers in the United States that ran trails that led to FDA approval.
Florida’s Redistricting Committee heard concerns of Collier County residents Wednesday morning at a crowded public meeting where there was standing room only.
The state lawmakers -- who are charged with redrawing Florida’s political boundaries -- listened to constituents for nearly three hours, but what they heard were basically three requests.
The No.1 issue on the minds of Southwest Florida voters seemed to be compact districts. Scott Duvall of Bonita Springs said the city suffers from a lack of political cohesion.
“One of our main issues is the bifurcation of the city of Bonita Springs – so we just ask for you to use wisdom in coming up with fair and logical boundaries,” he said.
A number of people, including Lydia Dalton with the League of Women Voters, were also concerned with the timeline for creating those new districts.
“It’s unfair to have the lines drawn after the date that candidates have to declare candidacy,” she said.
And, there was also concern about drawing compact districts that also provide for minority representation.
“Collier County is one of the only five counties in Florida whose entire electoral process is monitored by the Department of Justice due to past discrimination against Hispanics,” said Luis Bernal, who lives in North Naples.
Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who is chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said as far compact districts go the “listening tours” are providing valuable insight.
“Before today, I would not have understood there was any tension with regard to Bonita Springs,” said Weatherford. “Now, I understand what the citizens of Bonita Springs want -- they want to be together.”
But, creating districts that are compact, not drawn to favor one political party and assure minority representation at the state and federal level can be problematic, said senior committee member Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
“There are some minority groups saying we need more opportunities. On the other hand, we have the fair districts language which says districts ought to be compact,” he said. “I think there will be tension and it will difficult to resolve and make everybody happy.”
As for the time frame for having political boundary maps in place that satisfy provisions of state and federal law, Weatherford said the committee is doing the best it can.
“It’s very important to point out that if we had the entire state of Florida drawn already, people would have said this whole process is rigged, you’ve already made up your mind this is a waste of time,” he said.
Weatherford and Gaetz both said they are committed to having maps drawn and approved as quickly as possible. The redistricting committee meets the week of Sept. 19 in Tallahassee. The longer the redistricting process takes, the more difficult it will be for potential challengers to campaign against incumbents.
The Florida man perhaps best known for infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s died Friday in St. Augustine. Stetson Kennedy, also known as a folklorist and historian, was born in Jacksonville in 1916.
In 1937, Kennedy joined the WPA Florida Writer’s Project, travelling the state with African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, recording oral histories. The discrimination Hurston encountered led to Kennedy’s involvement in civil rights.
In the 1940s, he infiltrated the KKK, gained the leadership’s confidence, then provided information about the group to the Washington Post and Anti-Defamation League. Kennedy’s friend, former state lawmaker and historian Vernon Peeples said Kennedy exposed the Klan for what it really was.
“It took a lot of courage for him to do that but it was something he felt strongly about and I think he did it successfully and his contribution for unveiling the Klan was significant, “ Peeples said.
Kennedy wrote a number of books including Palmetto Country, based on material collected for the WPA. He also spent time living on a bus with Woody Guthrie and kicked up his heels in Paris. Kennedy died at the age of 94.
A ceremony marking the opening of the new Page Field General Aviation Terminal in Ft. Myers Thursday included a tribute to the past.
Mail planes began flying of out Page Field in 1926. National Airlines established passenger service between New York and the City of Palms in 1937. Then, came World War II. Truman Wilson was a teenager in 1939 when pilots began training at the field.
“The first military plane that came here was a B17. I was in highschool and saw it fly over downtown Ft. Myers. I jumped in my Dad’s car and followed it over here and it landed in the sand spurs,” he recalled.
Lee County Commissioner and Port Authority Chair Frank Mann – a native son of Ft. Myers -- says one his first memories is of Page Field.
“I remember as little boy coming out here going through the MP gate and being flabbergasted by all the excitement of the planes and the noise and the activity,” he said.
After the war, commercial passenger service resumed but ended when Southwest Florida Regional Airport opened in 1983. Page Field then became a hub for general aviation. But, the old terminal fell into disrepair.
Today, in its place, there’s a state-of-the-art facility with amenities to appeal to travellers flying in private Lear jets and Gulfstreams.
A past member of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District says the average homeowner’s s tax savings of about $27 a year does not justify slashing the district’s budget by 30 percent.
Nathaniel Reed said the end result is a threat to south Florida’s water supply, flood control and environment.
Earlier this month, the district laid off 134 employees due to the budget cuts. Another 123 employees left on their own or took buyouts. Also as a result of the cuts, Standard and Poor’s has lowered the district’s credit rating, citing less financial flexibility.
The South Florida Water Management District is the lead agency for Everglades restoration and also manages the water supply for agriculture in south Florida and for millions of residents. Reed, of Hobe Sound, who’s also a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said he’s outraged.
“All agencies can stand a five percent cut, but they can’t stand a cut the size the governor has set up. That’s dismantling agencies, that’s crippling agencies and it’s being done deliberately -- regrettably and in concert with the Republican legislature and they ought to hang their heads in shame,” he said.
Reed, a Republican, has led bi-partisan efforts to protect and preserve Florida’s environment for decades and remains active. He said reforming Florida’s tax laws is one way to protect the environment in the future.
“There are so many loopholes in our tax system that so many special interests have achieved that if those loopholes were closed there would not be a budget deficit,” he said. “But do you hear any courage from the governor and legislature about closing those holes – not a peep.”
Gov. Rick Scott defends his support of the legislation that led to downsizing at the district and tax savings for south Florida residents.
“What’s going on with the water district, it’s good what’s happening. We cut taxes by $210 million. They’re going back to their core mission,” Scott said.
The district is concentrating on its core mission this week – monitoring weather forecasts and adjusting operations of the regional water management system in order to reduce any potential for flooding from Hurricane Irene.
Budget cuts at the Florida Department of Health will result in less water quality testing along Collier County beaches.
For ten years, the health department has collected water samples weekly from fourteen beaches in Collier County. It’s part of the state’s Healthy Beaches program paid for with state and federal money.
Now the state money has gone away so testing will be scaled back to every two weeks and eliminated at three beaches. Health Department Spokeswoman Deb Millsap said careful consideration was given to where to cut.
Criteria included “what’s been the past water quality at the beaches; do you have any beaches that have been good the full ten years -- never had a poor water quality; the location of the site compared to other beaches that we will continue to test and the frequency of visitors to that beach site,” she said.
Millsap said if harmful bacteria are detected at one of the beaches, testing will be stepped up.
Statewide, water quality testing will be eliminated at 57 beaches. In Lee County , two beaches were proposed for elimination but health officials there said they will continue to test and will pick up the tab.