Scott Powers - 7/33 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

Aramis Ayala asks Pam Bondi to initiate challenge of Rick Scott’s murder case orders

An attorney representing embattled Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala has initiated the process to challenge Gov. Rick Scott‘s murder case reassignment orders by asking State Attorney General Pam Bondi to petition the court on Ayala’s behalf.

Ayala intends to challenge the legality of Scott’s now 23 and counting executive orders stripping 9th Judicial Circuit first-degree murder cases from Ayala’s jurisdiction and reassigning them to be prosecuted by 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King.

The governor did so after Ayala announced she had concluded that death sentences were unjust for all involved and that she would not pursue them. That angered Scott — and Bondi — leading Scott to reassign all of Ayala’s first-degree murder cases.

Bondi has supported Scott. But in this request, she may have no choice but to comply, as a perfunctory obligation, said Ayala’s attorney, Roy L. Austin Jr., of the Washington law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis.

Specifically, the letter asks Bondi to petition a court for a writ quo warranto against Scott and King.

Florida law requires state attorneys to go through the attorney general for such actions, Austin said.

“We have to ask her,” Austin said of Bondi. “But what it’s meant to signal is that Ms. Ayala is definitely going to be responding to the governor, making it clear that his actions were unconstitutional.”

“We’re going to do so next week, early next week,” Austin added.

Austin asked Bondi to notify him no later than 5 p.m. Monday on whether she would file for the writ. “If you do not intend to file such an action, state Attorney Ayala will file a petition for a writ quote warrant soon thereafter,” Austin wrote.

In the letter, he summarized Ayala’s position this way: “As the duly elected state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, state Attorney Ayala cannot be forcibly removed as the prosecuting officer for trial courts in the Ninth Judicial Circuit absent a finding that she has violated the law. By unconstitutional and unlawful executive orders issued by Gov. Rick Scott, State Attorney Brad King is wrongfully purporting to exercise the right of state Attorney Ayala to prosecute a number of cases in the Ninth Judicial Circuit.”

Frank Attkisson killed in bicycle-car crash

Former Osceola County chairman, Florida state representative, and Kissimmee Mayor Frank Attkisson was killed Thursday night when the bicycle he was riding was struck by a car, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Attkisson, 61, was riding on Kissimmee Park Road near St. Cloud around 6:30 p.m. Thursday when his bike was struck from behind by a car driven by 26-year-old Kristie Jean Knoebel of St. Cloud, according to the patrol. The crash is being investigated.

Attkisson was transported to Osceola Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Republican served a long political career that began on the Kissimmee City Council in the early 1990s and included a stint as Kissimmee mayor from 1996-2000. He served in the House of Representatives from 2000-2008, when he was term-limited out.

In 2010 he ran for and won a seat on the Osceola County Commission, and two years later was elected the commission’s chairman. However, he lost re-election in 2014.

Domestic violence report, lawsuit threats, video complicating Augustus Invictus-Libertarian Party bonds

Faced with new allegations of domestic abuse including sexual battery, Libertarian Party lightning rod and avowed ultranationalist Augustus Sol Invictus has been both lashing out at his “enemies” for what he calls slander and pursuing a deal he says will heal his reputation and his relationship with the party.

Invictus, who ran as a candidate for the Libertarian Party of Florida’s U.S. Senate nomination but lost in the primary, was accused in a March 21 report filed with the Edgewood Police Department by an unidentified woman. She said that during their 15-month relationship that ended early this year he repeatedly verbally, physically and sexually assaulted her, and even held a gun to her and threatened to kill her.

The allegations come at a time when Invictus is almost simultaneously trying to repair both his reputation and his relationship with the party, and launching a self-described war against his enemies, including against some in the party he says are out to destroy him, with an anger-filled video he posted on Facebook.

The police report allegations include her description of a March, 2016, incident in which she alleged, “Mr. Invictus got angry, beat her until her eyes were shut, dragged her into the closet and put a gun to her head, asking her why he shouldn’t just kill her … A similar incident happened again in January/February 2017 where he dragged her into the closet and put a gun to her head, beat her and attempted to suffocate her. This went on for several hours. explained that he then proceeded to sexually assault her.”

Of the unidentified woman who filed the report, police redacted her name and other information from released copies.

“The police report is 100 percent false,” Invictus replied to FloridaPolitics.com.

Invictus insisted the woman — as well as another woman he would not name — were part of a conspiracy that included at least a couple of people within the Libertarian Party of Florida. This included the man who defeated him in the August U.S. Senate primary, Paul Stanton, and the party’s former state chairman, Adrian Wyllie, who oy his reputation.

In the video posted on Facebook, Invictus threatened to sue for slander.

No charges were pursued against Invictus as a result of the police report because the incidents allegedly occurred in another jurisdiction — Altamonte Springs. Edgewood police urged the complainant to seek an injunction against Invictus and to re-report the allegations to the Altamonte Springs police. A recent check of Orange County Clerk of Court records and the Altamonte Springs Police Department indicate she had not done either yet.

Libertarian Party leaders declined to talk to FloridaPolitics.com about Invictus, the police report, or discussions with him, except to note they are in mutually-agreed-upon mediation regarding complaints and demands he has made to the party.

Stanton and Wyllie each denied any conspiracy and said they do not know the woman who filed the report. Both dismissed his claims, though both acknowledged they are unhappy that he is still in the party, or that anyone pays attention to him.

“It’s typical of the kind of lunacy he comes up with,” said Wyllie, who resigned as LPF chairman last year over Invictus’ standing and candidacy.

“It’s ridiculous,” Stanton said. “He’s just making fantastical, bizarre claims, just like he did in the primary, just like he always does. I think a lot of us are getting tired of it.”

Invictus is the Orlando-area lawyer who made his fame by defending neo-Nazis in criminal court cases. Then, as he ran for the U.S. Senate, publicized his penchant for behaviors like drinking goat blood or writing journals while on LSD.

Since then he’s charged that opponents — he blames anti-fascist groups called “Antifa” — have been threatening him, disrupting or preventing his rallies and appearances, and resorting to violence on some occasions. He also claims his family is being targeted. He has young children. And he claimed police are harassing him too, saying he was pulled over and harassed by deputy sheriffs in South Carolina this week for no reason.

He blames a news release the party issued under Wyllie in 2015 disavowing some of his political and philosophical positions. That release, he charges, falsely accused him of believing in eugenics and state-sponsored murder, and helped spread a false allegation that he is a white supremacist.

He has been demanding the party publicly retract those statements, and last week filed notice that he intended to sue the party for defamation. That led to the offer of mediation.

He told FloridaPolitics.com the mediation is over, and that the party has agreed to his demands, with just legal details to be worked out. He said he’s expecting the party to issue a news release soon, retracting things it said about him in the 2015 news release. And he believes that will solve some of his problems.

“We’re all very motivated moving forward to having this resolved so we can move on with our lives,” he said. “I expect it is going to clear my name in a big way. Of course, it won’t solve all my problems, but a correction of the original false allegations are going to clear my name in a big way.”

He said he is expecting total vindication, and that it would be an embarrassment to Stanton, who he said was the only key LPF official still opposing him.

Stanton, who is on the LPF executive committee, said whatever the party does, it does not mean that most of its members don’t dislike Invictus.

“Unfortunately, there is a small segment in the party that does support him. It is very troubling. However, the vast majority of the Libertarian Party both in Florida and outside Florida finds him to be appalling, to say the least,” he said.

Stanton said the police report reinforces his worst concern.

“Augustus Invictus advocates violence toward and subjugation of vulnerable people,” Stanton said, noting that’s what the police report says he did to the woman. “That is entirely antithetic to the Libertarian message of peace and nonaggression.”

In the Facebook video posted last week, Invictus vowed vengeance and made references to violence. However, in talking to FloridaPolitics.com, he downplayed those references as largely metaphorical about hardball politics.

He also said the vengeance he promised against the Libertarian Party of Florida would be waived when the news release he wants is issued.

In the video, he announced his “William Tecumseh Sherman” scorched-earth campaign against his enemies.

“The Antifa, the crooked cops, the Libertarian Party, the slanderers, the traitors, they all are finding out as we speak that my patience has run dry. I am setting fire to every goddamn thing in my path,” he declared in the video.

“Nothing will satisfy my anger now.”

Charging that they have involved his family, he warned: “I will involve your families. I will attack your reputations. I will authorize my people to attack your events. I will let my people know where you live.”

Chris King lone gubernatorial candidate to show at Florida Legislative Black Caucus symposium

Word has it that others were invited but only one candidate or potential candidate, Democrat Chris King, showed up at the Florida Legislative Black Caucus’s symposium Thursday to talk about the 2018 gubernatorial race.

King tweeted such Thursday, “Honored to talk w/the great leaders at the @FLBlackCaucus Gubernatorial Symposium about how to make our future better than our past.”

He is the Winter Park businessman who filed in late February but didn’t formally kick off his campaign until Tuesday night.

The other announced Democrat so far is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, while Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and attorney John Morgan of Orlando are all openly contemplating runs, and even doing some pre-campaigning. For the Republicans, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is unannounced but raising big money for a run.

“He’s here. Showing up is half the battle,” caucus chair state Sen. Perry Thurston. “I want to thank him for showing up, thank him for being here.”

Self-described political junkie Ella Coffee attended, and tweeted out a few details of King’s comments:

“I will be A CHAMPION FOR HOME GROWN BUSINESSES”

“We have to stop raiding our affordable home fund in the state.”

“When a person hasn’t had their rights restored, it’s not just about that, it’s about being able to support their family.”

Andrew Gillum raises $765K in first report for governor’s race

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is breaking from the gate with $765,000 raised for his Democratic gubernatorial campaign in the first few weeks.

Gillum’s campaign is reporting Wednesday morning that he has raised that much and has $635,000 on hand at the time of his first-quarter 2017 campaign finance report, through the end of March.

Gillum is claiming grassroots support, contending that the donations include 3,500 on-line contributions and have come from 56 of Florida’s 67 counties.

It puts him in contention with but behind the leading Republican candidate, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is reporting that his campaign raised $872,000 in March and is likely to be reporting a total in the range of $1.1 million when the campaign finance reports are fully released in a couple of weeks.

There is no word yet from candidates and potential candidates. The only other major announced candidate is Orlando businessman Chris King, a Democrat, though Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine and former state Rep. Gwen Graham are on the Democrats’ campaign trail.

Full details are not yet available on Gillum’s report.

“This resounding statement of early support proves that Andrew Gillum has the momentum to become the next Governor of Florida,” Gillum’s senior campaign advisor Sharon Lettman-Hicks declared in a press release. “Our campaign will continue to work to earn every vote in all corners of the state and invest in building the infrastructure needed to retake the governor’s mansion. After nearly 20 years of failed leadership in Florida, Andrew Gillum will be a Governor the Sunshine State can be proud of again.”

Chris King vows to bring ‘progressive entrepreneur’ spirit to Governor’s office

Orlando Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King introduced himself to Florida Tuesday evening as the “progressive entrepreneur” promising to bring bring a head for hard work, return on investment and financial stewardship but also a heart to Tallahassee.

King, a 38-year-old Winter Park businessman with no experience in politics, kicked off his campaign for the state’s highest office at an Orlando rally with 400 to 500 people, a musical warmup, several advance speakers and an ice cream truck, in the parking lot of the 11-story Hillcrest Hampton House, an affordable-housing senior tower his Elevation Global Initiative company developed.

“Whether you are an old friend or a new friend, we come together tonight at a momentous time in my life, and in the life of this state,” King said standing beneath the “In front of the family that loved me, the community that raised me, and the senior tower that gave me my mission, I announce my candidacy for governor of Florida.”

King’s 27-minute speech placed him squarely in the center of most Democratic issues and values, from environmental protection [“I would put scientists back in charge of environmental agencies;”] to affordable housing [his business speciality;] from minimum wage increases, to investing far more in public education [“I will be a champion and advocate for public education;”] social and legal equality for all, to expanding health care access and investment in mental health.

“If you’ve come here tonight and you are an advocate for public education or environmental protection or housing, or health care, I’m with you,” King said. “I want to be too.”

Yet King also dismissed all of that as secondary to his primary concern, fixing the economy to better provide for working families. King criticized Florida’s economy as low-wage, dead last among the 10 most-populous states in incomes, wages and productivity, with 45 percent of jobs paying $15 an hour or less.

“The biggest issue, the motivating issue for me and this campaign as we move forward, is to me the issue Florida faces today. And that is the fact that we have an economy that no longer works for so many our families,” he said.

For that he promised to lay out his economic plan which he is calling “Home Grown Florida,” focusing on fostering entrepreneurs and small businesses, education, and investment in infrastructure.

He also spoke in detail about the need to address water issues, and promised his campaign would “not take any money from big sugar. Not because it’s always wrong… but because the issues around water, sugar and the health of this peninsula are so critical, so compelling, that the citizens of Florida must know that their next governor is an honest broker, able to sit down with all parties, and not beholden to the financial interests of any.”

King comes into the race largely unknown politically outside limited circles in Orlando, but not unconnected. His father David King is a powerful lawyer who argued and won the redistricting cases on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Florida that forced Tallahassee to redraw congressional and state senate districts. His mother Marilyn King is a longtime patients advocate who served as chair of the board of directors of Orlando Health.

After graduating from Harvard and getting a law degree from the University of Florida and a brief law career, King and his brother Michael King started Elevation Global Initiative, which arranges creative financing to re-invest in old housing and senior housing properties, to redevelop them as affordable-housing.

Both his father and brother say that Chris King has probably been preparing to run for governor since he was in high school. David King said his youngest son has “a calling,” and has been seriously contemplating the run for about a year and a half. In recent weeks he’s been raising early campaign money and assembling a campaign team that includes veterans of the Barack Obama and Charlie Crist statewide campaigns,

So far King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination, while several others are openly exploring runs, including Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando lawyer John Morgan. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam appears to be clearing the field for his run for the Republican nomination.

Panel approves bill to require gambling warnings on Florida Lottery tickets

Lottery tickets, and places that sell them, could come with a warning: “Gambling can be addictive,” under a bill approved Tuesday afternoon by the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries.

Senate Bill 1370 may go where some Florida lawmakers are uncomfortable to follow, declaring the state’s lottery games to be a form of gambling.

As a result, the bill got a few no votes, including one from Democratic state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville.

But the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Keith Perry of Gainesville, said he believes the Lottery is gambling and needs the warning; a majority on the committee agreed.

“This bill seeks to better inform individuals that gaming can be addictive,” Perry said.

The bill would require the Florida Lottery Commission to have all vendors and retailers place or print a warning on all lottery tickets, and on prominent signs in retailers which sell them, which read: “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE.”

The bill does not call for a phone number to also be printed for people to call if they fear they are addicted, but Perry said he would be open to such in an amendment.

Gibson, who asked about that, pressed Perry for what she saw as the heart of the issue, that the bill would have the Florida Legislature declaring that the Lottery is a form of gambling.

“I don’t consider the purchase of those products offered by the lottery to be gambling,” she said. “And I’m not inclined to support these [warning] statements either.”

The companion, House Bill 937, is in the House Commerce Committee.

‘Single worst case:’ Bill compensating Barahona twins’ survivors gets committee approval

In a case of two young children who endured torture, sexual abuse, violence, murder and attempted murder by an adoptive family while the Florida Department of Children and Families did nothing, a House committee Tuesday voted to support a $5 million settlement.

The money would go to Victor Docter Barahona, now 16, who survived the physical and mental abuse, torture, and attempted murder, and to other beneficiaries including blood relatives of his and his twin sister Nubia Docter Barahona, whose equally-horrific young life ended with her murder at age 10 in 2011.

“This is for me the single worst case that I’ve ever seen,” said state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican, who sponsored House Bill 6523 along with state Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat.

Jorge and Carmen Barahona, who fostered the twins and then adopted them, are awaiting trial on first-degree murder and numerous other charges in a Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The 2011 case led to national outrage and alarm toward, and reforms of, the Department of Children and Families, including reforms pushed by Diaz.

“At every step of the way there were errors, there were flags that DCF should have seen,” he told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Government Operations and Technology while presenting the bill.

Revealed evidence alleges that the twins had undergone seven years of abuse that included being tied up in bathtubs, force-fed feces, electrical shocks, sexual battery, and numerous other torturous acts during their custody with the Barahonas. Eventually, in 2011, the two children were found in Jorge Barahona’s truck bed covered with caustic chemicals. Nubia was dead; Victor was alive but in critical condition.

In a report he filed with the Florida Legislature on Feb. 28, House Special Master Parker Aziz agreed with Diaz that DCF had numerous opportunities and responsibilities to intervene.

“In sum, the cumulative effect of the evidence shows that DCF should have known the twins were being abused and failed to prevent the situation from continuing. DCF employees performed their tasks in a mere perfunctory fashion, filling out forms and bubbling in boxes without adequate critical thinking and analysis of the data they were collecting,” Aziz wrote. “The Department and its employees had a duty and breached that duty.”

Victor and the other blood-family survivors had sued DCF in two cases, one in circuit court and one in federal court.

On March 6, 2013, DCF entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs in the federal case for $1,250,000, which has been paid. As a part of the settlement, DCF agreed to settle the state negligence claims and not oppose this $3,750,000 claim bill and submit a letter supporting the claimants. On June 18, 2013 the state case was settled under the same terms.

Yet the compensation attempts for Victor and some of his blood relatives have died in the Florida Legislature in each of the last three sessions.

This year the companion bill is Senate Bill 18, which is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The twins had been placed with the Barahonas when they were preschoolers because their birth mother was a drug addict.

“God bless her children. May this never happen again,” Diaz concluded.

Randolph Bracy comes to Aramis Ayala’s defense with NY Times op-ed

Democratic state Senator Randolph Bracy has published a national defense of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala Tuesday with an op-ed column in the New York Times contending Gov. Rick Scott has overreached in removing cases from her.

In the column headlined “Florida’s Vengeful Governor,” Bracy argues that Scott’s reassignment of 22 death penalty cases from Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, prosecuted by Ayala, to Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit, prosecuted by State Attorney Brad King, is without precedent or any legal foundation.

Scott did so because Ayala announced that she had concluded that Florida’s death penalty is not just for anyone and she would not pursue it in any cases. Last month Scott used an executive order to reassign the case of alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd. On Monday he used 21 more executive orders to reassign the cases of 21 others.

Bracy called Scott’s actions “retaliation.”

“They are meant to punish the state attorney, Aramis D. Ayala, Florida’s first black elected prosecutor, for announcing she would no longer seek the death penalty because it was not in the best interest of her jurisdiction, which stretches from Orlando to Kissimmee,” Bracy wrote.

“Ms. Ayala rightly argued that capital punishment does not deter crime, nor does it protect police officers. Instead, it often leads to protracted appeals, and rarely delivers closure to the victim’s family,” he continued.

Bracy argued that Ayala is well within her rights and duties as a state attorney to make that decision and set that policy.

“Although Ms. Ayala’s critics have denounced her actions as dereliction of duty, they cannot point to a single law or statute that she has violated. That’s because she hasn’t,” Bracy writes. “There are no federal or state laws that say prosecutors must seek death sentences. And the United States Supreme Court has banned all state laws that make executions mandatory for murders.”

Although Ayala has received broad support from various Democratic, Civil Rights, religious, legal, and anti-death penalty groups, Bracy has been one of the few elected officials who has aggressively defended her.

Bracy concedes in the column that he might not share Ayala’s view on the death penalty, but he respects her rights and duties of prosecutorial discretion and the fact that she is an independent elected official placed in office by voters.

He also noted the racial history of the death penalty and his own effort, through a bill, to address equal justice concerns.

“As a black man, I see the death penalty as a powerful symbol of injustice in which race often determines who lives and who dies, especially in Florida,” Bracy wrote. “The state has the second-largest number of death row inmates in the country, after California, and African-Americans are grossly overrepresented on Florida’s death row. This disproportionality was a driving force behind my bill. And while I felt that Florida was not ready to relinquish the death penalty, I tried to make it more fair.”

Auburn license plate proposal dropped in committee

Football fans of rival Auburn University probably won’t be getting a Florida commemorative plate this year.

A provision to allow for the production of Auburn license plates was dropped from state Sen. Keith Perry‘s Senate Bill 1374 through an amendment added Monday in the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee.

That left the bill focusing on the intent of its title: on efforts to honor veterans in Florida with various highway designations and license plates.

The bill, touted for its veterans’ angles and with nary a word spoken about the Auburn plate during Monday’s committee meeting, was unanimously approved Monday afternoon by committee after an amendment struck the Auburn provision from the bill.

The companion bill, House Bill 1375, is now in the House Government Accountability Committee.

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