Articles on this Page
- 03/31/15--13:52: _Police seek credit ...
- 03/31/15--14:05: _Man gets 24 years f...
- 03/31/15--13:00: _Work set on Airport...
- 03/31/15--15:54: _Chipley kidnapping ...
- 03/31/15--15:57: _Man gets probation ...
- 03/31/15--17:14: _Man charged with se...
- 04/01/15--12:53: _Man guilty of robbery
- 04/01/15--12:53: _Mental health facil...
- 04/01/15--12:57: _Man accused of posi...
- 04/01/15--12:58: _Man charged with at...
- 04/01/15--14:57: _‘Pour it out’ Mixed...
- 04/01/15--13:00: _Man dies in crash
- 04/01/15--16:56: _Mother, daughters s...
- 04/02/15--07:38: _Franklin County fre...
- 04/02/15--12:59: _Chipley man guilty ...
- 04/02/15--13:13: _Plea, plea, baby: V...
- 04/02/15--14:45: _Man sentenced in fa...
- 04/02/15--14:50: _Florida prison work...
- 04/02/15--17:05: _7 men arrested Wedn...
- 04/03/15--08:00: _Work planned on I-10
- 03/31/15--13:52: Police seek credit fraudster
- 03/31/15--14:05: Man gets 24 years for shooting in parking lot
- 03/31/15--13:00: Work set on Airport Road
- 03/31/15--15:54: Chipley kidnapping trial beings Wednesday
- 03/31/15--15:57: Man gets probation for attacking EMS worker after crash
- 03/31/15--17:14: Man charged with sex with minor
- 04/01/15--12:53: Man guilty of robbery
- 04/01/15--12:53: Mental health facility employee arrested
- 04/01/15--12:57: Man accused of posing as officer to cut into fast-food line
- 04/01/15--12:58: Man charged with attempted sexual battery at Haney campus
- 04/01/15--14:57: ‘Pour it out’ Mixed reactions to beach alcohol ban
- 04/01/15--13:00: Man dies in crash
- 04/01/15--16:56: Mother, daughters sentenced for BP fraud
- 04/02/15--07:38: Franklin County freshman admits to, arrested for bomb threat
- 04/02/15--12:59: Chipley man guilty in kidnapping
- 04/02/15--13:13: Plea, plea, baby: Vanilla Ice accepts deal in Florida burglary case
- 04/02/15--14:45: Man sentenced in fatal road rage incident
- 04/02/15--14:50: Florida prison workers in KKK accused of plotting to kill inmate
- 04/02/15--17:05: 7 men arrested Wednesday on drug charges in Panama City Beach
- 04/03/15--08:00: Work planned on I-10
PANAMA CITY — The Panama City Police Department is seeking a man suspected of using a stolen credit card.
The man, described as white in his late 40s to mid 50s and weighing at least 250 pounds, was seen using the card at the Home Depot on 23rd Street and Winn-Dixie in Panama City Beach on Sept. 9, PCPD reported. Anyone with information is asked to call PCPD Detective Shubert at (850) 872-3100, or they can report their tips anonymously to CrimeStoppers at (850) 785-TIPS.
PANAMA CITY — A man who shot a potential customer in daylight in the parking lot of a 23rd Street hardware store during a marijuana deal gone awry has been sentenced to serve 24 years in prison, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Circuit Judge Brantley Clark Jr. sentenced 29-year-old Sonny Eric Pierce, of Panama City Beach, to 24 years in prison Tuesday for the June 2013 shooting.
Assistant State Attorney Bob Sombathy took Pierce to trial March 10 and showed jurors that Pierce tried to gun down Jeremy R. Ducharme the afternoon in the parking lot of the 23rd Street Home Depot. Ducharme had driven a man to meet Pierce and two others so the man could buy marijuana, but the deal went bad and Ducharme and his companion had to run for their lives.
Pierce followed them with a .357 caliber handgun and opened fire as they tried to drive out of the lot. Ducharme was struck by two bullet fragments, but his injuries did not require medical treatment.
Pierce was found guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm and shooting into an occupied vehicle. The aggravated battery was charged under the 10-20-life statute, which required a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 20 years. Clark also had to run consecutively whatever sentence he gave for the shooting into an occupied vehicle. He ordered Pierce to prison for another 51 months on that charge for a total of 24 years and three months behind bars. He will have to serve the first 20 years day for day, without receiving time off for good behavior.
PANAMA CITY — Drivers will encounter lane closures on Airport Road in Panama City between Jenks Avenue and State 390 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday while Florida Department of Transportation crews take core samples from the roadway.
All activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.
CHIPLEY — Opening arguments will be heard before Judge Colby Peel on Wednesday in the trial of the man accused of the February 2013 kidnapping and beating of a Chipley woman.
Christopher Cruz Walley, 27, of Corbin Road, Chipley, is charged with aggravated battery, kidnapping/false imprisonment and grand theft in a series of events that left a woman unconscious in the trunk of an Oldsmobile, which he drove throughout the night of the alleged crime and into the next day.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office reported the victim in the case called 911 from an Eloise Road residence in Chipley to report the crime after she escaped from the trunk. She was then transported to Northwest Florida Community Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition due to injuries sustained from the beating.
The victim, who is expected to testify Wednesday, told investigators she had been in the car with Walley on Feb. 5 when without warning, Walley stopped the vehicle and began attacking her, both with his hands and with a police baton, until she lost consciousness.
Investigators reported the victim regained consciousness and found she had been moved to the trunk of the vehicle and that Walley continued to travel throughout the evening and into the next day, making several stops with the victim still trapped in the trunk.
Walley was later arrested in Bonifay after the Bonifay Police Department received a tip the car was parked at a local restaurant.
The trial begins after a series of continuances granted at the request of the defendant, including a request filed after Walley told Judge Christopher Patterson in August 2014 pre-trial proceedings that he didn’t feel he had been afforded sufficient communication with his attorney.
Walley is expected to take the stand in his defense on Thursday.
PANAMA CITY — A Georgia man who thought a bomb was in his car when he crashed into a couple’s golf cart and seriously injured them has been sentenced to five years of probation, according to court documents.
Servando Sanchez-Uriostegui, 29, was charged with several charges following a crash on Front Beach Road near Joan Avenue that left two visitors driving a golf cart on the sidewalk in serious condition. Officers also said Sanchez-Uriostegui called in a bomb threat soon after the crash.
He was sentenced to probation Tuesday after pleading no contest to misdemeanor battery on an ambulance worker and reckless driving with serious injuries.
Florida Highway Patrol officers initially reported in August 2013 that Sanchez-Uriostegui, of Roswell, Ga., was driving a Jeep Cherokee eastbound on Front Beach at about 7:30 a.m. when he drove over a sidewalk and struck a golf cart. James Kimbrell, 61, and Rita Kimbrell, 57, both of Arley, Ala., were ejected from the golf cart before being rushed to a local hospital in serious condition.
Soon after the crash, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office received a phone call from someone claiming there was a bomb in Sanchez-Uriostegui’s vehicle. The caller told officers “there is a bomb” twice and the area was evacuated. The BSCO bomb unit and K-9 unit investigated, but deputies only found a bottle of peroxide in the vehicle.
Sanchez-Uriostegui also was seriously injured in the crash and taken to the hospital. However, as EMTs attempted to treat him on the way, Sanchez-Uriostegui grabbed one by the throat and began choking her until he was restrained.
Later at the hospital when investigators questioned Sanchez-Uriostegui about the bomb, he told them, “It’s a long story,” according to officer reports.
He initially told them someone had come and got it but eventually indicated to investigators “he was not thinking clearly and thought there was a bomb in the car,” officers reported.
Charges of false report of a bomb, no valid driver’s license and leaving the scene of an accident were consolidated in the case and the battery on an emergency worker was reduced to a misdemeanor. Sanchez-Uriostegui was sentenced to five years of probation for battery and reckless driving causing serious injury.
SPRINGFIELD — A 69-year-old Springfield man has been arrested on charges of unlawful sexual acts with a minor, according to court documents.
Thomas George West was arrested Monday in connection with a string of sexual acts he allegedly performed on a 17-year-old between Jan. 1 and March 30. After investigators intervened, the victim told them during that time that she and West were involved sexually “too many times to remember,” according to arrest records.
West has been charged with 15 counts of unlawful sexual act with a certain minor in connection to those occurrences.
CHIPLEY — A 24-year-old man has been found guilty of robbing a man within his own home at gunpoint, the State Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
A Washington County jury convicted Brandon Terrell Ramsey, of Chipley, on Tuesday of burglary and robbery with a firearm. Assistant State Attorney Shalla Jefcoat showed jurors that Ramsey and two other men attacked and robbed Travis Yarbrough in his home the night of March 17, 2014.
Yarbrough was pistol-whipped while fighting one of the robbers and then the men made off with cash.
Ramsey was found guilty as charged of burglary of an occupied dwelling while armed with a firearm and robbery with a firearm. He faces up to life in prison when Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson sentences him May 4.
MARIANNA — Authorities have arrested an employee of a care facility for the mentally disabled in connection with an incident that left a resident with a broken neck, the state Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday.
Justin Holmes, 20, was charged with one count of aggravated abuse of a disabled adult following an incident that occurred at the Sunland Center in Marianna, an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled. While employed at Sunland, Holmes allegedly antagonized a wheelchair-bound resident to charge his wheelchair into Holmes. According to the investigation, Holmes then reacted by throwing the resident out of his wheelchair and onto the floor. As a result of the altercation, the resident sustained a broken neck.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office later arrested Holmes in connection with the incident. He faces one count of aggravated abuse of a disabled adult, a first degree felony. If convicted, Holmes faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. The State Attorney’s Office for the 14th Judicial Circuit will prosecute the case.
ODESSA, Texas (AP) — A West Texas man has been charged with impersonating an officer by using sirens and flashing lights to skip to the head of the drive-thru line at a fast-food restaurant.
Odessa police say Michael Chico was arrested after an off-duty officer spotted a truck with law-enforcement trappings. Cpl. Steve LeSueur (luh-SWEER’) says Chico's vehicle looked like an unmarked police vehicle.
The officer who saw the truck cut in line Saturday thought the driver, who was wearing a uniform, was a volunteer firefighter and followed Chico to some apartments.
LeSueur says that when confronted, Chico said he wasn't an officer and also used the lights and sirens to get through traffic lights.
Chico was freed Sunday on $15,000 bond. Online jail records don't list an attorney for him.
LYNN HAVEN — A man was arrested and charged after an alleged sexual battery on the campus of the Tom P. Haney Technical Center, Lynn Haven Police reported.
Yvad Akeem Grant, 18, of Panama City Beach was charged on Wednesday with attempted sexual battery, false imprisonment and unnatural and lascivious acts, police reported. The investigation began when officers were called to the school after a student disclosed the sexual battery happened on Tuesday, according to police.
Grant allegedly confronted the victim in the main lobby after school was dismissed and forced her to a nearby stairwell, police said. He blocked the door with a garbage can, pushed the victim under the stairs and attempted to make her perform a sexual act upon him, according to police. While the victim refused and resisted, Grant allegedly continued and committed an unnatural and lascivious act upon her, police said.
Grant was taken into custody and transported to the Bay County Jail where he will undergo a first appearance.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Opinions varied among visitors Wednesday during the first day of a prohibition against drinking on the beach.
Airplanes towing large banners along the coastline carried a cautionary warning Wednesday afternoon of “No alcohol allowed on sandy beach” a day after city and county lawmakers passed new ordinances governing where and when alcoholic beverages can be consumed and possessed.
Electronic signs in front of Panama City Beach City Hall, on the Hathaway Bridge and on Thomas Drive also greeted tourists on the way to their vacation rentals with the words of caution.
And officers monitoring public beach accesses and patrolling the sandy beach were also verbally issuing warnings that violators could face fines or jail time for being caught with alcohol.
Many visitors were unaware of changes to the law. Once informed, some agreed with the decision and others said they would not be returning in coming years.
Numerous unwitting lawbreakers were along the beach in the area known as “The Triangle” Wednesday afternoon. A group of post-college visitors from the Madison area of Wisconsin had just set up their Badgers flag and a beer pong table behind The Summit on Thomas Drive. The group had traveled down to celebrate a wedding with joint bachelor and bachelorette parties.
One member of the wedding party, Joe Eddie, said he thought the move to ban alcohol on the beach was a mistake.
“It doesn’t really bother us all that much,” Eddie said. “We could just go drink at a bar.”
However, he also indicated alcohol restrictions would influence any future vacation plans among his friends.
“There are a lot of other places we could go,” he said.
Farther down the beach, a grandfather sipping a beer sat alongside his 3-year-old grandson. The man also did not know of the changes to the law.
“I’m 42 years old and ex-military,” said Kevin Burke, of Alabama. “If I can control myself and not trash the place, I feel like I should be able to have a beer. But if the rule is no alcohol on the beach, then there’s no alcohol on the beach.”
Unlike the wedding party, Burke said the restrictions would not deter him from coming back next year with his family.
Enforcement: Shortly after noon, Panama City Beach Police officers and Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputies geared up beach patrols, issuing warnings along the beach that was sparsely crowded compared to weeks prior. Many officers were under orders to give people notices that alcohol was prohibited on the beach through April 18 following emergency meetings Tuesday of the Bay County Commission and Panama City Beach City Council.
“Right now we’re taking a common sense approach,” said BCSO Maj. Tommy Ford. “We’re giving people the option to pour it out unless the situation dictates otherwise.”
Ford emphasized that officers issuing warnings will not be a common practice, since signs are posted at beach accesses and social media is used to disseminate the message.
“The option to pour it out will only last in a brief window,” Ford said.
Decisions by the City Council and County Commission to extend a law barring alcohol sales after 2 a.m. and implement prohibition of alcohol on the beach came in the wake of a shooting at a Spring Break house party early Saturday that left seven people injured.
Though many college Spring Breaks are over, BCSO officials said the extension of the laws into April was necessary because of a shifting demographics of visitors celebrating “Spring Break.”
“Now with this different element of Spring Break visitors not being dictated by their class schedule, it makes it difficult to gauge crowd sizes on any given weekend,” Ford said.
Lawmakers have scheduled a follow-up meeting to discuss issues with the laws. The County Commission and the Beach Council are scheduled to meet today at 1 p.m. in the BayCounty Government Center,
840 W. 11th St.
GRACEVILLE — An 83-year-old man was killed in a single vehicle traffic crash after overturning several times, according to a Florida Highway Patrol news release.
Clifton Dicky, of Graceville,was driving a 1995 Toyota Camry Tuesday at about 6:50 p.m. on State 2 about a mile west of U.S. 231 before the crash. For an unknown reason, Dicky left the roadway onto the north shoulder, FHP reported.
The Camry traveled down the center of a ditch and impacted a concrete culvert. The car became airborne and went end over end several times before landing upside down on the north shoulder, officers said. No seatbelt was in use, FHP said.
Dicky was pronounced dead at the scene by Jackson County Fire Rescue, FHP reported.
PANAMA CITY — A mother and her two daughters will have to repay a total of almost $50,000 attained by filing fraudulent BP claims, according to federal court records.
Rebecca Louise Vickner and her two daughters, Kimberly Ann Whitman and Miranda Danielle Cobb, each were sentenced to five years of probation Wednesday in the U.S. Federal Court District of Northern Florida after entering pleas to the charges in connection with several counts of wire fraud following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The three allegedly filed false claims with the Gulf Coast Claims (GCC) facility that included fraudulent tax returns from a Panama City Beach-based company called TLC Providers, Inc. to receive a total of $47,752. TLC representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion of April 2010 caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history, gushing an estimated 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, BP was designated as the responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act. In the wake of the disaster that inadvertently damaged the economy and environment of some coastal area, BP was ordered to receive claims and repay losses.
Vickner, Whitman and Cobb took the opportunity to file false claims with BP and receive $47,752, according to federal court documents. Vickner assisted in filing five fraudulent BP claims for a total of $23,876, records indicated. She also was instrumental in Cobb claiming damages suffered by herself, and her own daughter, of $17,000. Vickner also helped Whitman file claims also in her’s and her own daughter’s name for $6,876, court records indicated.
Vickner was indicted on five counts of wire fraud while Whitman faced three counts and Cobb faced one count.
The woman pleaded guilty to the charges and a federal judge Wednesday morning ordered the three women repay the money. They were also sentenced to five years of probation in connection with the fraud scheme.
EASTPOINT — A Franklin County High School freshman admitted to writing the bomb threat Monday that forced the early closure of the school and he was arrested and charged in the incident.
Superintendent Nina Marks said the boy confessed Tuesday to writing the note, on a paper towel, that was found late Monday morning in a boys restroom in the high school building on campus, which comprises grades kindergarten through 12.
The sheriff’s office said Wednesday that it had arrested the boy, “who had mentioned to other students his involvement with the threat.” He was charged with issuing a false bomb threat, a second-degree felony, which for an adult can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The sheriff’s office said the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice was notified and made the decision to release the suspect back into the care of his parent.
At a briefing for teachers and staff following the orderly dismissal of the school’s 930 students by about 1:40 p.m., Sheriff Mike Mock told them the unsigned note said a bomb was set to go off at 7 p.m.
“The indication was that the student had a bomb on him, whatever that meant, and that they didn’t want to hurt anybody,” said one source familiar with the incident.
A news release issued by the sheriff’s office said Mock, Marks and Principal Kris Bray “examined the validity of the threat (and) it was jointly decided that school should recess early to assure the safety of students and staff.”
Al London, director of auxiliary services, said the decision to evacuate was made to “err on the side of safety. It was a major project, with serious consequences involved. We don’t do it lightly.”
Elinor Mount-Simmons, the school’s public information officer, telephoned the Apalachicola Times, Oyster Radio, and television and radio outlets in Tallahassee and Panama City. In addition, the sheriff’s office issued a Code Red alert, which is an emergency notification system that county residents can sign up for at the sheriff’s website www.franklinsheriff.com.
The Code Red telephone messages did not reveal the reason for the early closure of schools, and people were advised to follow the news on Oyster Radio or on the sheriff’s office Facebook page. The Apalachicola Bay Charter School was not affected by the closure, although initially some ABC parents were unclear as to whether the closure affected their children.
A thorough search of the Franklin County School campus Monday afternoon, conducted with the assistance of K-9 officers from Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Capital City Police, discovered no explosive devices, read the sheriff’s office release.
“The initial investigation suggests the threat was not credible,” it read. “While the investigation of who is responsible for the threat will continue, there is no reason to believe the students’ safety is at risk.”
Marks said Tuesday that a referral has been made of the boy to school psychologist Kevin Haeusser. In addition, she said the code of conduct calls for an immediate 10-day suspension, and the commencement of expulsion proceedings. That decision, she said, will ultimately be in the hands of the school board.
Marks said Monday’s evacuation had gone smoothly, thanks to the cooperation of the schools with the law enforcement officials. School resumed on a normal schedule Tuesday morning.
CHIPLEY — A Washington County jury convicted Christopher Walley on Thursday of kidnapping and beating a Chipley woman, the State Attorney’s Office reported.
Assistant State Attorney Shalla Jefcoat showed jurors that Walley, 27, of Chipley attacked Marly Ann Conway the night of Feb. 5 as they were parked in a wooded area after running errands. Walley dragged her from the car and beat her with a collapsible baton until she passed out.
He then locked her in the trunk of her car and left the area. When Conway came to, she was able to escape the trunk and walk to a nearby house for help.
Walley was found guilty as charged of kidnapping and aggravated battery. He faces up to life in prison when Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson sentences him May 4.
WEST PALM BEACH (AP) — Vanilla Ice has accepted a plea deal to perform community service after being arrested over the break-in and theft at an abandoned home in Florida.
The rapper, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, appeared in circuit court in West Palm Beach on Thursday. He agreed to a fine and 100 hours of community service to avoid charges of grand theft in the February incident.
Van Winkle hosts a home-improvement show, DIY Network's “The Vanilla Ice Project,” and was renovating a home next to the victim. He said the alleged theft was a misunderstanding.
The 47-year-old rose to fame with the 1990 hit song “Ice Ice Baby.”
He told The Palm Beach Post, "I'm glad to have this behind me."
MARIANNA — A North Carolina man convicted in a case of road rage that turned deadly accepted a plea deal Thursday before the verdict could be filed, according to a State Attorney’s Office news release.
Kevin Denkevitz, 50, accepted the plea deal on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and shooting into an occupied vehicle. He was sentenced to three years in prison. However, a jury had already found Denkevitz guilty as charged when prosecutors offered a plea deal that was in place before the trial began.
If the verdict had been officially entered, Denkevitz would have been facing at least 20 years in prison.
Denkevitz, of Sanford, N.C., Craig Frederickson and Terry Gibbs in June of last year were riding motorcycles from San Antonio, Texas, to North Carolina. Another traveler, Jessica Mock, was driving behind in a pickup truck.
Just before entering Jackson County, the group was passed by a Ford pickup being driven by Ronald Haney, with his girlfriend and her teenage daughter, on their way to Key West. Something sparked an altercation on the road, and Haney sped away to avoid a conflict.
The groups separated and lost sight of each other, but Haney then exited onto Highway 71 to get gas. The motorcyclists spotted Haney’s truck at a gas pump down the road and surrounded it on their bikes.
When Haney tried to get in his truck and drive away, Frederickson opened the driver’s door and punched him in the mouth.
Denkevitz pulled a 9mm pistol and fired a shot at Haney’s truck before he drove off and crashed into Gibbs. Gibbs was thrown to the ground but the motorcycle became lodged under the pickup with Haney frantically trying to dislodge the motorcycle as Denkevitz fired several more rounds into the truck.
Haney escaped and called 911. But Gibbs died from a massive head injury sustained in the altercation.
Jurors found Denkevitz guilty as charged and faced at least 20 years in prison. However, he accepted a plea deal before the verdict was filed to serve three years in prison.
GAINESVILLE (AP) — Three Ku Klux Klan members who worked at a Florida prison have been charged with plotting to kill a black inmate after his release because they believed the man is infected with HIV and hepatitis and he bit one of them during a fight, officials said Thursday.
The case comes as the latest black eye for the troubled state prison system.
The three men — Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, David Elliot Moran, 47, and Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42 — were arrested Thursday and each faces one state count of conspiracy to commit murder, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office said in a written statement.
The state said the murder plot started after Driver, an officer at the Department of Corrections Reception and Medical Center in rural north Florida, had a fight with the inmate.
Moran is currently a sergeant at that facility. Newcomb was fired in 2013 for failing to meet training requirements, according to the department.
Bondi's office said the three were also members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The group has garnered attention in recent months for distributing flyers that likened protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, to terrorists.
The FBI was initially alerted to the murder plot by a confidential informant inside the Klan, according to an arrest affidavit. The informant was present when Driver and Moran talked with Newcomb, identified as the KKK chapter's “Exalted Cyclops” or leader, and recorded many of their conversations.
In late 2014, authorities say Driver provided the Klan chapter, called a klavern, with a photograph of the inmate, who'd been let out on supervised release.
“Both Driver and Moran ... told the (confidential informant) that they wanted (the inmate) ‘six feet under’,” the FBI's affidavit said.
The informant recorded all three men making plans to murder the inmate — ranging from shooting him to injecting with a lethal dose of insulin, which Newcomb said “would be quieter.” In the recordings, the men often refer to the man using a racial epithet.
Their first attempt to find and kill the inmate failed, and the informant recorded a conversation with Driver to confirm he still wanted him dead.
“Do you want this guy terminated?” the informant asked.
“Yes sir,” Driver replied, according to the affidavit.
In March, the FBI gave the informant a burner cellphone with a doctored photograph that appeared to show the inmate had been fatally shot. The informant showed all three men the photograph and recorded their jubilant reactions.
Moran, who they men referred to as “Sarge,” was smiling when he saw the photograph that depicted the inmate had been murdered, according to the informant.
Driver smiled, nodded his head ... and shook the (informant's) hand in gratitude, according to the affidavit.
Bondi said and corrections department officials were quick to condemn the suspects’ alleged actions, but the incident highlights an ongoing stream of high-profile problems in Florida's prison system.
Last fall, prison system officials fired nearly 50 employees, including several over allegations that they punched and beat inmates.
The deaths of inmates Randall Jordan-Aparo and Darren Rainey also drew attention.
Jordan-Aparo was reportedly gassed while in a confinement cell at the Franklin Correctional Institution.
Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, was punished in 2012 with a shower so hot that his skin separated from his body at Dade Correctional Institution. The warden there was fired.
Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones, who was hired late last year to lead the troubled agency, called the arrests “disquieting.”
“We are moving swiftly to terminate the employees arrested today and working closely with Office of the Attorney General to assist in their prosecution,” she said in a written statement.
“Our Department has zero tolerance for racism or prejudice of any kind. The actions of these individuals are unacceptable and do not, in any way, represent the thousands of good, hardworking honorable correctional officers employed at the Department of Corrections.”
The case will be prosecuted in Columbia County in north Florida.
Driver and Moran are being held in Union County jail. Newcomb is in Alachua County Jail with bond set at $750,000.
Frank Ancona, imperial wizard of the KKK group to which the three men were said to belong, did not confirm or deny their membership.
“We at the TAK do not in any way condone, tolerate, or support any type of illegal activity in our organization and because of this we would stand by any of our members pending a decision by a court of law, not a decision of the court of media or public opinion,” Ancona said.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report. Fineout reported from Tallahassee.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — It was a bad day Wednesday to be an MDMA salesman on the beach.
Panama City Beach Police and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office arrested seven people Wednesday on charges of intending to distribute MDMA — an illegal drug commonly called “Molly” — in different areas along the beach. On one occasion, police initiated a foot pursuit when a man abandoned his fellow passengers from Georgia with a car allegedly containing cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA, according to arrest records.
PCBPD officers pulled over a red Mercury Grand Marquis at about midnight containing five men from Georgia: Johnny Lee Allen III, 23, Daraebium Barefield, 22, Deondre Brown, 22, Zedarrius Coleman, 23, and Deangelo Martez Harris, 23. K-9 officer Biest had alerted police to the car when it was parked in the Club La Vela parking lot, 8813 Thomas Drive. Officers followed the car to the Campers Inn parking lot where the men were ordered to get out of the car, PCBPD reported.
Allen was in the backseat and took off on foot north through the campground. Police followed behind as he jumped a fence into the campground, allegedly throwing out a plastic baggie when he landed, officers reported.
Police were able to wrangle Allen in the lagoon. As they walked back to the patrol car, the officer picked up the baggie, allegedly containing 15 MDMA capsules, where he saw Allen throw it out, police said.
The other four men were arrested when officers allegedly found 40 more capsules of MDMA, five grams of cocaine and 15 ecstasy pills hidden under seats within the car, according to court records. Each of the men was charged with possessing MDMA, cocaine and ecstasy with intent to distribute.
Allen was additionally charged with tampering with evidence and resisting arrest.
Another man, Jason Eric Gentry, 25, address unknown, was arrested on the beach after allegedly approaching people to sell ecstasy, according to BCSO reports. Officers said they found one MDMA capsule, a prescription pill and several marijuana “roaches.”
And Demondreo Shadarius Harris, 20, of Georgia, was arrested in the Subway parking lot on Thomas Drive after a traffic stop. Police reported he had 53 grams of marijuana and a bag containing 1.9 grams of MDMA.
MARIANNA — Motorists can expect alternating lane closures on I-10 in Jackson County Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as crews perform pavement coring and surveying, the Florida Department of Transportation said.
All activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or rescheduled in the event of inclement weather. Motorist are reminded to travel with care through the work zone and to watch for equipment and workers entering and exiting the roadways.