Florida probes domestic violence agency that paid CEO $750K
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. DeSantis cited exorbitant executive salaries at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence in asking the state's chief inspector general to investigate the agency that's nearly entirely funded by state and federal money. Also Thursday, the Florida House voted to subpoena the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence board of directors and former president Tiffany Carr, who earned $750,000 before resigning. The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times first reported on Carr's salary in 2018.
PLANE CRASH-TWO DEAD
Small plane crashes in front yard, killing two occupants
EAGLE LAKE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in central Florida say a small single-engine plane crashed into a home's front yard, killing the aircraft's two occupants. Polk County officials say no one on the ground was injured from Thursday's crash. An image provided by Polk County officials showed the remnants of the four-seat, propeller-driven plane crumbled up against a tree in the front yard of a one-story home. The crash occurred near Bartow Executive Airport, located about midway between Tampa and Orlando. It was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
PARKING LOT DISPUTE SHOOTING
Man convicted in parking lot shooting attacked in prison
MIAMI (AP) — A Florida man who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed black man during a parking lot dispute was attacked in prison and has been transferred to protective custody. A defense lawyer says Michael Drejka was hit in the head Tuesday with a sock that had a lock inside, which caused him to get five stitches. Drejka's wife told his attorneys he's now living in fear. Drejka was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the death of Markeis McGlockton in 2018. Drejka confronted McGlockton's girlfriend, who was parked in a handicapped space outside a store.
Spirit Airlines moving operations center to Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Spirit Airlines and Tennessee officials say the low-cost carrier is moving its operations control center from Florida to the Nashville area. Officials said Thursday that the project to move the operations center from Miramar, Florida, to Williamson County, Tennessee, represents an investment of $11.3 million and will bring 345 jobs to Tennessee over the next five years. Spirit will move more than 240 positions from Florida to Tennessee. The center handles flight dispatch, crew scheduling, maintenance control, aircraft routing, air traffic control coordination and other aspects of the business. Spirit entered the Nashville market in October with nonstop flights to several cities.
Man accused in deaths of 3 women to appear in court
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A 37-year-old Florida man is expected in court for his first appearance before a judge since DNA linked him to the deaths of three women more than a decade ago. Robert Hayes was booked into the Volusia County Jail on Wednesday, where he's being held without bond. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Hayes already was facing a separate murder charge after his arrest last September in Palm Beach County, where he had been jailed. The killings in the mid-2000s caused such a panic in the Daytona Beach area that several prostitutes joined together to help investigators, memorizing vehicle descriptions and license plates. Police said the three victims were prostitutes.
With budgets drafted, it's crunch time for Florida lawmakers
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Now that Florida lawmakers in the House and Senate have passed their respective budget plans, the sprint to the end of the 2020 legislative session begins. Lawmakers have about a month to reconcile their differences. The Senate passed a spending plan totaling $92.8 billion. That's $1.4 billion more than what the House wants to spend. In the coming weeks, lawmakers will have to reconcile their policy and funding differences over state employee pay raises, the environment and teacher salaries — among the priorities put forward by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
FLORIDA ENERGY OFFICE
GOP House votes to move energy office now run by Democrat
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida House approved a bill that would remove the state's Office of Energy from the agency run by the only statewide elected Democrat and move it to an agency controlled by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The House voted 76-40 Thursday for the bill to move the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Environmental Protection. Democrats said Republicans are pursuing a politically-motivated power grab, while Republicans said it is simply a good policy decision.
Former Florida prosecutor accused of offering help for sex
MIAMI (AP) — Authorities say a former Florida prosecutor pressured a woman into having sex with him in exchange for help with her criminal case. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says 29-year-old Juan Mercado was arrested Wednesday in Miami-Dade County and charged with bribery. Mercado served as assistant state attorney in southwest Florida from May 2017 to February 2019. The FDLE investigation showed that the woman was being prosecuted for domestic battery in Collier County, and Mercado offered to “make her case go away” in exchange for sex. Mercado was not the assigned prosecutor on the case but accessed records and provided information and advice to the woman.
Blue Jays' Reese McGuire charged with indecency in Florida
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Toronto Blue Jays catcher Reese McGuire is facing an indecent exposure charge in Florida. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says deputies were dispatched to a shopping center parking lot in Dunedin Friday afternoon following reports that a man sitting inside an SUV was exposing himself. Deputies say they spoke with McGuire, who was cooperative and did not deny the allegations. McGuire was charged with a misdemeanor count of exposure of sexual organs and given a notice to appear in court on March 16. The team's spring training facility is located in Dunedin, just a few miles from where deputies found McGuire.
Florida lawmakers OK funding to commemorate black cemeteries