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8 posts from August 1, 2013

August 01, 2013

Obama taps Amos Rojas, Jr. to be South Florida's U.S. Marshal

Amos Rojas Jr., who heads anti-money-laundering efforts for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, was nominated Thursday by President Barack Obama to serve as the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Florida.

Rojas was nominated along with Gary L. Blankinship (Texas Southern), Robert L. Hobbs (Texas Eastern) and Peter C. Tobin (Southern Ohio).

“These nominees have spent their careers risking their own safety to protect their fellow Americans,” President Obama said in a statement.  “Their courage and selfless dedication to the public good are unparalleled, and I am honored to nominate them today to continue their work as U.S. Marshals.”

It should be noted that some deputy marshals don't match Obama's description. Some are like the two badge-heavy cops who stopped innocent black men on Memorial Day in Miami Beach and then threatened and swore at a reporter trying to simply take a picture of it all. We can't list the names because the U.S. Marshals office refuses to comment.

Rojas isn't one of them. His bio:

Amos Rojas Jr. currently works for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, serving as the Deputy Director of the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force.  He previously worked for 24 years in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), including serving for eight years as the Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Regional Operations Center of the FDLE.  Prior to joining the FDLE, he served as an Investigative Supervisor in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and he has also served on the Huntsville (Alabama), South Miami, and Miami-Dade Police Departments.  He received his undergraduate degree in 1983 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Arthur England, 80

Arthur England Jr., who served more than six years on the Florida Supreme Court in the 1970s at a time when it was recovering from a string of scandals, died Thursday at his home in Coral Gables. He was 80.

In the early 1970s, England served as a special tax counsel to the Florida House of Representatives, a role in which he helped craft a proposed corporate profits tax in Florida, a major plank in Reubin Askew's 1970 platform for governor. England later served as Askew's consumer adviser.

England served on the state's highest court from 1975 to 1981, and was its next-to-last justice who was popularly elected by the voters. His path to the bench was an unusual one: Justice Richard Ervin was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, and Askew believed he should appoint Ervin's successor, but the Supreme Court ruled the seat must be filled by election.

England filed for the seat anyway, despite his misgivings about an elective judiciary, ran a low-budget campaign and defeated Sam Spector, a trial court judge, in a 1974 election.

As a justice, England was a stickler for the use of common, easily-understood language in legal briefs, once opting to author an opinion as "by the court," rather than the more common "per curiam." He also championed a program to use the interest on lawyers' trust accounts for their clients to pay for legal services for the poor -- the first program of its kind in the United States, and one modeled on a similar program in Canada. He first proposed the idea in a 1976 speech to the Florida Bar Board of Governors in Crystal River.

After he left the bench, England spent two decades as an appellate lawyer at the Greenberg Traurig firm in Miami and later formed his own law firm.

-- Steve Bousquet 


Rep. Artiles might run for Congress in "full-contact" campaign involving Genting, Miami Dolphins


State Rep. Frank Artiles is examining a run for Florida’s most-scandalous Congressional seat in a bid that could spell a bloody GOP primary in the shadow of big-dollar outside interests from the Genting Group casino company to the Miami Dolphins.

For the past few days, Artiles has been phoning political players about running for Congressional District 26 and even spoke Wednesday night to one of his potential Republican opponents, Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo.

“Carlos Curbelo is a friend of mine; I don’t have a problem with him,” said Artiles, stressing that he hasn’t made up his mind yet on whether to run for office.

“Miami politics is a full-contact sport.”

It’s also rife with innuendo and rivalry.

Artiles’ interest came just after fellow state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz decided not to run for the Kendall-to-Key West seat, intensifying speculation among Miami politicos that Miami-Dade delegation members hold a grudge against Curbelo for working as a consultant and lobbyist for Genting when it was implicated in funding opponents against three other legislators.

Curbelo has denied putting up candidates to run against the legislators -- Mike Bileca, Jeannete Nunez and Carlos Trujillo– for not backing Genting’s effort to bring casino gaming to downtown Miami.

“It’s a myth,” Curbelo said. “These people are friends of mine… Frank is a friend of mine as well.”

Continue reading "Rep. Artiles might run for Congress in "full-contact" campaign involving Genting, Miami Dolphins" »

Scott, Bush praise outgoing education chief

Gov. Rick Scott had some kind words for state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, who resigned from the post Thursday following a grade-fixing flap in Indiana.

“What I can tell you is Tony did a great job here,” Scott told The Palm Beach Post.

Earlier in the day, Bennett told reporters that Scott had been among his supporters, and had even encouraged him to remain in the role after the news broke on Monday. Bennett said he resigned to avoid further districations.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush also praised Bennett Thursday, pointing specifically to his accomplishments as Indiana's education chief.

"Tony started every day with the focus of creating a system that would equip kids to achieve their God-given potential," Bush wrote in a statement. "Today, more Hoosier kids are graduating high school ready for college or a career and fewer are dropping out. Last year, the parents of nearly 10,000 children in low-income homes were able to select the school that best fit their son or daughter. Leadership is doing what is right, knowing the results will follow. The data is clear; thanks to Tony’s leadership children are better prepared for success."

Bush and Bennett are strong allies.

Bennett is active in Bush's alliance of state education officials called Chiefs for Change.

It's official: Thurston asking for special session on SYG

Florida House Democratic leader Perry Thurston is requesting a special session in a letter that suggests he has at least the 32 votes necessary to trigger the first step in a review of the stand your ground law.

Still, it’s a longshot.

“I make this request for a special session based on my belief that there is demonstrable confusion within and among police departments, prosecuting offices and the courts about the application of the law,” Thurston wrote in a letter sent Thursday morning to Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “As presently crafted, the statutes have not simply helped law-abiding citizens protect themselves from attack, but rather they have been used as cover for perpetrators of crimes.”

Thurston cited Florida statute 11.011 (2) that states the Legislature may convene a special session when 20 percent of the 160 lawmakers, which is just 32 lawmakers (there are 58 Democrats in the Legislature), send in requests like Thurston’s. If the Department of State receives 32 letters, then it has seven days to poll the remainder of the Legislature. Then, if three-fifths of the Legislature agrees (that would be 96 lawmakers), Detzner would have to set the day for the session. Notice then must be sent to each member within seven days after the requisite number agree to a special session.

If Detzner doesn’t get the required number of letters asking for a special session within 60 days, then all prior requests, including Thurston’s, are scrapped.

Sounds rather remote, no? Thurston, D-Plantation, couldn’t be reached.

It's official: Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigns

Tony Bennett resigned Thursday as Florida education commissioner following two days of controversy over school grades in his home state of Indiana.

He made the announcement at a news conference in Tallahassee late Thursday morning.

“The decision to resign is mine and mine alone, because I believe that when this discussion turns to an adult, we lose the discussion about making life better for children,” Bennett said.

Coming to Florida from the Hoosier state last January, Bennett had faced mounting calls for his resignation in the wake of revelations, first reported by The Associated Press, that he interceded on behalf of an Indiana charter school run by a prominent Republican Party donor.

On Thursday, he called those reports "malicious and unfounded."

His resignation comes as a major setback for Gov. Rick Scott and state education leaders, who are working to overhaul Florida’s system of school accountability and assessment in compliance with the national Common Core standards.

“I’m saddened by Commissioner Bennett’s departure,” state Board of Education member Sally Bradshaw wrote in an email to the Herald/Times. “This is a loss for Florida’s students.”

Continue reading "It's official: Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigns" »

Venezuela: Miami Cubans plotting Pres. Maduro assassination


BOGOTA, Colombia -- In the latest twist on long-running allegations, Venezuelan officials Wednesday accused members of Miami’s Cuban exile community and former CIA agent Luís Posada Carriles of plotting to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro, as he struggles to fill the shoes of late leader Hugo Chávez.

“The plans to physically eliminate Maduro are under way,” National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello told state-run TV. “Where is this coming from? Miami… from Cubans who went there many years ago — who are living there — and have contact with Venezuela.”

Although he provided few details, Cabello said Posada Carriles is working with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to hatch the plot, which he claimed had raised $2.5 million and amassed 400 mercenaries. He said the armed men had entered the country through Zulia state, which borders Colombia, and that the government foiled an assassination plot against Maduro that was scheduled for last Saturday.

Cabello said Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres would provide additional details Wednesday night.

Assassination allegations aren’t new in Venezuela.

More here

Bennett expected to resign as Fla. education commissioner

Tony Bennett is expected to resign Thursday as Florida education commissioner following two days of raging controversy over a school grading controversy in his home state of Indiana.

Bennett, who came to Florida from the Hoosier State last January, has faced mounting calls for his resignation in the wake of revelations, first reported by The Associated Press, that he interceded on behalf of an Indiana charter  school run by a prominent Republican Party donor.  His resignation will be a major setback for Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state education leaders, who have been working to overhaul the state's system of school accountability and assessment in compliance with the national Common Core standards.

-- Steve Bousquet