Nicaraguan appealing for asylum in Florida deported
MIAMI (AP) — Immigration authorities have deported a Nicaraguan man appealing for asylum despite pleas by immigrant rights groups in South Florida.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday that 25-year-old Espilvio Sanchez-Benavidez was deported following a court’s order.
Sanchez-Benavidez is appealing an asylum case that was denied in 2015 for lack of evidence. He arrived in the U.S. in 2013 after receiving death threats following the killing of two relatives.
His wife says he was detained last month after meeting officials for a regular check-in. Advocates and lawyers demanded this week that lawmakers investigate an alleged increase in similar detentions at ICE’s office near Fort Lauderdale.
Activists submitted a document bearing about 9,500 signatures to U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo of Florida petitioning to halt the man’s deportation.
Sanchez-Benavidez was deported on Wednesday.
Florida may make it easier to get rid of school textbooks
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — It could become easier for parents and Florida residents to challenge school textbooks and school library books under a bill passed by the Florida House.
The House on Thursday voted 94-25 for a bill that would allow parents and residents to review instructional materials and then challenge them as inappropriate before a hearing officer. A similar bill is also moving in the Florida Senate.
Critics of the bill contend that it could lead to schools removing books that discuss topics such as climate change or evolution.
But Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican sponsoring the bill, maintains that the legislation is about giving people an opportunity to raise questions about textbooks. He noted that local school districts would still have the final say on whether the materials should still be used.
Florida agencies that break records laws could pay price
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Government agencies would have to pay attorney fees for people who successfully sue them to obtain public records under a bill heading to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
The House unanimously passed the bill Thursday. It means government agencies would have to pay attorney fees if a judge determines they broke the state’s open government laws by not providing records.
The law would apply if someone seeking records gave written notice of what they were trying to obtain at least five business days before filing suit.
But if a plaintiff’s public records request was made with improper intentions, such as to harass an agency or to force a violation so they can sue, a judge could order the requestor to pay legal costs and attorney fees to the agency.
3 strangers help Florida officer restrain combative suspect
TAMPA (AP) — A Tampa Police officer has been released from the hospital after a fight with a suspect who violently resisted arrest. Three strangers came to his aid to help restrain the combative suspect.
Police say an officer was called Wednesday after a man allegedly wandered through a hotel and took the manager’s key ring. Officer Michael Collins saw a man fitting the description walking nearby and tried to speak with him.
Authorities say Luis Manual Vila became combative and repeatedly struck the officer. A cab driver came to the officer’s aid and was also allegedly struck by the suspect. A woman grabbed the suspect’s feet to keep him from standing up, and then sat on his legs. A third Good Samaritan also assisted in the struggle.
The 18-year-old suspect faces several charges including battery on a law enforcement officer.
Florida House passes bill banning steroids for greyhounds
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida House has passed a bill that would ban injecting racing greyhounds with anabolic steroids.
The bill (HB 743) was approved by an 84-32 vote on Thursday. Its next stop will be to the Senate.
Florida is home to 12 of 19 tracks in the United States and one of the few places where the use of steroids is permitted. It’s banned in Great Britain and Australia, where the sport remains popular.
Supporters of the bill say the use of steroids keeps female greyhounds from going into heat and losing racing days. Representatives from Florida’s Greyhound industry argue steroids don’t enhance performance.
The bill’s passage comes as the Legislature considers gambling legislation that would decouple dog tracks from running a required number of days in order to operate poker rooms and slots.
Florida bill gets tougher on drug trafficking offenses
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida House unanimously passed a bill that would include murder charges for someone who distributes certain drugs that result in the user’s death.
Thursday’s passage of the bill (HB 477) comes as the state is struggling to stem growing opioid abuses and overdoses. Lawmakers said they want drug dealers to know they will not tolerate the way they prey on the weak.
The measure adds fentanyl and other synthetic drugs to the state’s drug trafficking statute, and would also make it a felony to possess 10 grams or more of such drugs. A similar Senate bill is headed to its last committee stop.
The bill’s passage in the House comes a week after Gov. Rick Scott announced a series of workshops aimed at tackling the opioid abuse.
Gun store alarm tripped? Call cops first, says Florida bill
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Alarm monitoring companies would have to call police first instead of property owners if the alarm is triggered at a gun store under a bill moving in the Florida Legislature.
The House unanimously passed the bill Thursday.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan said she sponsored the bill after a gun store in her district was burglarized and it took seven minutes for the alarm company to contact police.
Alarm companies contact property owners first to ensure an alert isn’t a false alarm. They then call police if property owners can’t be reached or if they confirm it wasn’t a false alarm.
The bill would also apply to gun manufacturers and importers.
A similar Senate bill has one more committee stop before it can be heard by the full chamber.
Murder suspect caught in stolen truck by agriculture cops
LIVE OAK (AP) — Authorities say a man wanted for killing two people has been arrested after he passed through an agriculture interdiction station in a stolen vehicle.
Agriculture officials were alerted Wednesday that a stolen truck had passed through the inspection station in Live Oak. Agriculture law enforcement officers questioned the driver, 34-year-old Emmanuel Saint Fleur.
Authorities said he confessed to stealing the truck and the weapon inside the car. According to a press release, Fleur also said he shot two people in South Florida. Fleur is wanted by Miami Gardens Police on charges of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder with a firearm, and burglary with an assault while armed.
He also faces several new charges from Wednesday, including grand theft of a motor vehicle and firearm.
Court says immigration status irrelevant in dependency cases
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court says judges can’t dismiss immigrant children’s petitions for dependency simply because they think they’re seeking the status to secure permanent residency.
Thursday’s ruling involves a Guatemalan boy who immigrated to Florida when he was 13 after his parents abandoned him and his grandparents grew too old to care for him.
His godmother has cared for him at her Miami home, but she is not a legal guardian.
A lower court judge denied the petition for dependency because he thought the motivation behind it was to seek legal residency status.
The Supreme Court ruled that doesn’t matter, and that dependency has to be determined independent of immigration status.
Language for felon voter restoration proposal OK for ballot
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court is approving the language of a proposed ballot initiative seeking to automatically restore voting rights for most felons once they complete their sentences.
The court ruled Thursday that the initiative can be put on the 2018 ballot with its current language. The effort, though, is still a long way from receiving enough signatures to be included on the ballot.
If it does make the ballot and at least 60 percent of voters approve, felons would have their voting rights restored once the finish their sentences, including probation or parole.
People who commit murder or felony sexual offenses wouldn’t be eligible for automatic voting rights restoration.
The group proposing the ballot initiative still needs to gather nearly 700,000 voter signatures.
Florida voters may get a say over casino gambling
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court is signing off on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voter approval for new casinos.
A divided court ruled 4-2 on Thursday that the amendment was not misleading and sticks to one subject. Backers of the amendment will still need to gather another 700,000 signatures to make the 2018 ballot.
The amendment is being pushed by gambling opponents who want to make sure that the Florida Legislature cannot approve casino gambling without voter approval. State legislators have considered proposals to expand casinos the last several years.
Two Supreme Court justices argued that the amendment was misleading because it is unclear how it would affect counties where voters have approved slot machines for local dog and horse tracks. That includes the counties of Broward and Miami-Dade.
1st tropical depression of season forms far from land
MIAMI (AP) — The first tropical depression of the Atlantic season has formed far from land.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but last year two storms formed before the official start of the season.
The depression is located about halfway between Bermuda and the Azores and does not pose a threat to land. The system is expected to dissipate Thursday night or Friday.
It has winds of about 35 mph.
The first Atlantic storm of 2016 was Hurricane Alex, which made an unseasonable debut in January over the far eastern Atlantic. Tropical Storm Bonnie formed in May 2016 off the South Carolina coast.