Broward deputy faces additional sexual assault charges

August 25, 2009 by  
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Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss, accused of preying on homeless men and illegal immigrants, remains jailed without bail

BROWARD COUNTY – A Broward sheriff’s deputy who was arrested on charges he stalked and sexually assaulted men searched police records to obtain photos and personal data on more than two dozen men and five prisoners he met while on duty, court documents show.

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Investigators found the information, printed from law enforcement databases, in a wooden chest in Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss’ bedroom, according to a search warrant filed Monday in Broward Circuit Court. The printouts also carried added notations, for instance “HOT JEEP GUY” and “HOT GUY IN TOYOTA ECHO,” said investigators, who matched the printouts to an activity log on Bleiweiss’ computer at work.

Bleiweiss, 29, initially faced 15 criminal charges stemming from one man’s allegations, but on Monday prosecutors added seven counts — including stalking, armed false imprisonment and sexual battery — relating to a second man’s statement. At least six other men have levied allegations against Bleiweiss, saying the deputy fondled, assaulted, threatened and harassed them. The men are all undocumented immigrants and almost didn’t report the incidents because they feared reprisal, officials said.

The second man told investigators that Bleiweiss pulled him over early one morning in April or May in Oakland Park and ordered him to sit in the backseat of the patrol car, where Bleiweiss then reportedly performed oral sex on him.

“Immediately afterwards, Jonathan Bleiweiss grabbed his flashlight and radio and exited the vehicle, asking [the victim] if he would like to do it again in the future,” Detective Graciela Benito wrote in an arrest report released Tuesday.

The alleged victim said that Bleiweiss pulled him over again three days later and fondled him.

Investigators said they could find no written record of the traffic stops.

Bleiweiss has been held at the Broward County Jail without bond since his arrest Aug. 3.

He remains employed by the Sheriff’s Office but has been suspended without pay. The criminal investigation is ongoing, as is an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Office.

Before his arrest, Bleiweiss’ image was that of an openly gay deputy who excelled at his job and was a leader in the local gay community.

After his arrest, though, homeless men and undocumented immigrants in Oakland Park have come forward to tell reporters that they despised and feared Bleiweiss because he often harassed them for no reason.

Riviera Beach police served with FBI search warrant

August 25, 2009 by  
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Riviera Beach– FBI agents descended on the Riviera Beach Police Department today looking for records on police overtime assignments. A city police spokeswoman confirms the State’s Attorney’s office is investigating the matter and requested the FBI to serve the subpoena for information. Agents arrived at police headquarters around 9 or 10 a.m. and left with the evidence.

Source: Cbs12.com

People fed up with sky-high power bills

August 25, 2009 by  
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VERO BEACH, FL – Kevin Beverly turned on his lights because he knew we were coming.

He sits in the dark most of the time.

Beverly keeps the air conditioner set at 78 or higher, even though his daughters need to stay cool.  The two girls suffer from epilepsy and heat increases the likelihood of a seizure.

Still, the electricity bill often tops $400, $500, even $600.

Beverly lives in unincorporated Indian River County but gets his power from the city of Vero Beach.

Vero Beach gets electricity from Florida Municipal Power Agency, which recently raised its rates to offset projected fuel costs.

“The FMPA literally almost doubled their costs to us,” says Vero Beach Customer Service Manager John Lee.

“We got a bill from them last month for $6.2 million.  By contract, we are obligated to get that from our customers.  We don’t tax it, we don’t take any profit, we send it right back to them.”

Lee says customers will soon get a break.

The contract with FPMA ends in January and Vero Beach will start getting its power from the Orlando Utilities Commission.

Lee says though the base rate for power will increase, the average homeowner’s bill should drop about 20%.

Any savings on the electricity bill will not kick in until January and Vero Beach customers will still pay more than customers of Florida Power and Light.

Beverly says he’s not sure how he’ll even make it to the first of the year.

He’s asked the city repeatedly for help.

“Oh our hands are tied, that’s the answer we would get,” Beverly says.  “Or it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  And who knows if better’s coming January 1st.”

Water and sewer rates will also increase, costing the average homeowner $11 more per month next year.

The Vero Beach City Commission will discuss the proposed hikes September 1st and vote on them September 15th.

Source: wptv.com

Dogfighters get creative as Vick spotlight fades

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Crime, Featured, National News, Top Stories

(CNN) — When pro quarterback Michael Vick pleaded guilty to bankrolling a dogfighting operation in 2007, there was a spike in reports of dogfighting in the United States.

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But when the headlines faded, the blood sport grew stronger and went even more underground, with thugs taking inventive precautions to keep police at bay, animal cruelty experts say.

“They know it’s just not smart to have large crowds anymore, so we’ve seen fights where you’ve got the two handlers, a referee and Web cams everywhere broadcasting the fight on the Internet,” said Mark Kumpf, an investigator based in Ohio who directs the National Animal Control Association.

Fights are also being staged on the move — in 18-wheelers. “These guys are very sophisticated,” Kumpf said. “If you’re driving down the road, there could be dogs in that truck driving next to you that are dying.”

Dozens more dogfighting cases have been investigated and prosecuted since the Vick case, said Alison Gianotto, who runs the database PetAbuse.com.

The computer programmer, horrified when a neighbor’s cat was set on fire eight years ago, created the California-based organization to track animal cruelty cases and animal abusers.

The database, which logs media stories, has also become a popular place for law enforcement to send reports.

“There’s not a central body keeping track of what’s happening nationally, which is unfortunate when you consider that a lot of these cases cross state lines,” she said.

Still, detectives, animal welfare professionals and prosecutors agree that the attention the Vick case has brought to dogfighting has been positive because more people are inclined to report their suspicions. Dogfighting is illegal in all states; penalties vary but usually include heavy jail time or steep fines.

The National Football League suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of bankrolling a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in Virginia. Vick, 29, was freed from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 20 and returned to Virginia to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in home confinement.

“At the height of attention on the Vick case, things quieted down across the country with some of these dogfighters getting out of the business,” veteran animal abuse investigator Tim Rickey said. “But then, the headlines went away, and people thought the attention was off. It just started right back up, almost stronger than before.”

“Every Saturday night in every county in Missouri, there is a dogfight going on,” Rickey said.

While the Vick case was making its way through the court system, Rickey, who directs the animal cruelty task force at the Humane Society of Missouri, was initiating what would become an 18-month investigation linking dogfighting rings in eight states.

That probe led to the July 8 arrest of 28 people from eight states. As many as 400 dogs were confiscated in raids coordinated by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Rickey said. He said it was the largest such case involving dogfighting in the U.S.

While those involved with the national case declined Monday to give details about that investigation, CNN spoke with several detectives across America who have worked other dogfighting cases. Among the abuses they’ve uncovered:

• Dogs with missing ears and patches of skin

• Animals with teeth shaved down to the bone

• “Vets” who have used leg splints that are to tight to “treat” animals in dogfighting rings

• Contraptions, usually fashioned out of wood, much like a treadmill, that force chained dogs to run or be choked.

Detective Keith Coberly of the police vice squad in Dayton, Ohio, described a case he recently investigated that resulted in the convictions of three men.

A neighbor called police when she saw a mangled dog that had apparently escaped from a home where investigators found 60 chained pit bull terriers, many being starved and wallowing in their own waste. There were thousands of hypodermic needles scattered across the ground.

“They were using steroids on the animals,” he said. “There was one dog — in such bad shape, man — tethered to a logging chain, and another was kept in a two-foot shed without ventilation or food.”

The suffering is incalculable, and the cost of caring for the animals is steep.

Because the national investigation originated in Missouri, the state is harboring about 400 of the rescued dogs, some that have had puppies recently.

“These dogs are bred to attack each other, so just caring for them is a tremendous job. You have to keep them separate, and you have to protect volunteers who are devoting 12, 14 hours of their day,” Rickey said. “And we’re doing all of that in this economy.”

Investigating dogfighting is dangerous — and hugely popular in Russian mafia circles and with drug traffickers in Mexico, experts say.

Dogfighting is reliant on word of mouth, and on what one undercover officer described as “bad character” references. “If you can get someone to vouch for you, a match is set up,” Kumpf said. “They’ll have everyone go to a hotel and come pick you up and drive you around in an unmarked van.” Driving around town helps shake any police tail, he said.

Those betting on fights aren’t likely to get paid on site any more. Money is often kept at another location, making it more difficult to make arrests.

In late July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick, who said on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night that he cried in prison because of the guilt he felt about dogfighting.

Vick’s agent announced Thursday that the former Atlanta Falcon signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, which reportedly could be worth more than $6 million.

“I hope people realize [dogfighting] is not just about Michael Vick,” Rickey said. “It’s a lot bigger than him.”

Deadly Jupiter crash on I-95 Kills 2 People

August 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Local News, Vehicle Accidents

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Two people are dead after a crossover accident on I-95, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and Florida Highway Patrol.

It happened just south of Indiantown Road near Jupiter.

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Officials say a red pickup truck crossed the median hitting a Toyota carrying the two victims.

The driver of the pickup truck was transported to Saint Mary’s Medical center with non-life threatening injuries.

Source: wptv.com

Tropical storm Ana may head toward Florida

August 15, 2009 by  
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MIAMI (AP) – Tropical Storm Ana has formed over the Atlantic and could strengthen as it heads toward the Leeward Islands, forecasters said Saturday.

38393-leadSouth Florida is now in the Five Day Storm Track Forecast Cone (also known as the “Cone of Uncertainty”).  If this storm has an effect on usit appears that it will be sometime late Wednesday night and Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ana could trigger a tropical storm watch for parts of the Leeward Islands later Saturday. It may pick up speed and approach the islands by Monday, the hurricane center said. It was 1,010 miles east of the islands early Saturday.

Ana, the first named storm of the Atlantic season, could slowly strengthen in the next couple of days as it moves to the west at 16 mph. Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph.

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