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Local, state, and federal leaders talk energy at Chamber forum

The presidential election will no doubt play a big role in determining where the country’s energy policy will be in five or ten years, and this morning local business and government leaders gathered at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce for the Florida Consumer Energy Alliance’s energy forum to discuss the United States' energy policy going forward.

"It's important that we move forward with energy, but that we do it in a very responsible way," says Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who was joined by State Representative Lake Ray, Mike Davidson of Mike Davidson Ford, Buzz Hoover with Gate Petroleum, and Kevin Doyle, executive director of the Florida Consumer Energy Alliance.

Congresswoman Brown stressed the need to continue investing in energy despite some of the projects the U.S. invested in that didn't go as well as planned.  Brown acknowledged that Solyndra was a failure but she says that doesn't mean the country should just drop everything and forget about researching and developing new energy.

"Listen, I've been in Congress 20 years.  I can tell you a lot of ventures that we've gotten involved in that didn't do what they were supposed to do.  One word: Halliburton."

Lake Ray focused much of his speech on electricity conservation and the legislature's plans going forward to pursue and implement new energy policies.  

"I think it's about deregulation, I think it's about being serious about our future," said Ray.  He argued that one of the ways the U.S. could get back to basics while still moving forward in the energy game would be to develop cleaner, more energy efficient ways to manufacture products.

Buzz Hoover talked about the petroleum side of the issue saying Gate is already looking into ways to retrofit their pump stations so that new and alternative sources of energy, like compressed natural gas, can be purchased.

"If a cleaner, more secure, cost-effective alternative gasoline is developed, we'll be among the first to offer it," said Hoover.  

Hoover says the U.S. has a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure that is almost entirely based on producing, transporting, and dispensing liquid fuel for the cars and trucks most people drive, and that anything that might change that is going to have to be worth it.

"If there's an alternative to gasoline that's going to be viable, it's either going to have to fit into the existing infrastructure or it has to be sufficiently cost-effective to warrant the cost to modify the infrastructure."

The final discussion of the day dealt with the possible outcomes of the 2012 race for the White House and how each candidate will further the U.S. energy policy in years to come.  According to the Florida Consumer Energy Alliance, President Obama's plan is to support renewable energy programs, promote energy efficiency and conservation, and support responsible development of fossil fuels.  Mitt Romney, they say, will take a slightly different track, pursuing aggressive regulatory reform, supporting and promoting increased production, including opening up reserves to exploration and production, and finally targeting research and development.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • The daughter of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been denied a blanket excuse from taking the stand during her mother’s federal fraud trial. Shantrel Brown’s attorney filed a motion this week aiming to squash the subpoena issued to her by the US Attorney’s Office, saying Brown intended to plead the Fifth and remain silent on any questions from the government. A District Judge Friday denied that motion.  The motion from Shantrel Brown claimed the only purpose for issuing a subpoena on her was “for the atmospheric effect upon the jury to see the defendant’s daughter invoke her Fifth Amendment rights”. Her attorney said she intends to invoke the Fifth on any question, so calling her to the stand solely to have her invoke is “improper”.  Prosecutors had fought Brown’s motion, calling it “premature” because it’s founded in the belief that a witness can refuse to answer questions without knowing what the questions will be. The government says Brown has the right to assert her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, but that some of what she may be called to testify on does not deal with her personal actions. Specifically, the court filing highlights that Brown shares a home with her mother in Virginia and would naturally know about her habits and often her whereabouts. Prosecutors further say there is evidence Brown planned and attended events in her mother’s honor.  Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, and the head of One Door For Education Carla Wiley are all accused of collecting more than $800,000 in donations to One Door- which they represented as an education charity- and using that money for personal expenses instead. Wiley and Simmons have previously pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the US Attorney’s Office as prosecutors build their case. Brown does not intend to take a plea deal and has said she will take the stand during trial. That trial is slated to start Wednesday, with jury selection on Monday.  The US Attorney’s Office further noted it’s possible the defendant will try to shift blame for her alleged role on to her daughter. As such-and with all of these factors considered- prosecutors say Shantrel Brown can’t be given any exemption at this point. They added that they will consistently evaluate her role as a potential witness through the early court proceedings to determine whether to call her to the stand, and if she is called on, she would be able to lay out her case for invoking the Fifth- arguments that would be done outside of the presence of a jury, according to the US Attorney’s Office filing.  The District Judge’s ruling denying the motion to squash the subpoena said the proper procedure is to have an “inquiry into the legitimacy and scope”- not in the presence of a jury- to look at the specific questioning Brown could face and whether privilege is “well-founded”. That inquiry will be conducted if the US Attorney’s Office determines they will, in fact, call Shantrel Brown as a witness. Shantrel Brown is one of 45 witnesses the US Attorney’s Office has filed notice they may call to testify. The prospective witness list for the defense is 33 people.
  • Twelve jurors will decide the future of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown- and they’ll be selected from a group of 39 in a two-day process starting Monday. Last July, Brown and her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons were indicted in a federal fraud case centered on the group “One Door For Education”- which prosecutors say Brown and others represented as a non-profit to solicit donations, but used the more than $800,000 they collected for personal expenses instead. Prosecutors say the trio used Brown’s position as a Congresswoman to promote the group and solicit donations, without One Door having ever been registered as a charity.  Simmons and third alleged co-conspirator, Carla Wiley, have previously pleaded guilty. Brown faces a total of 22 charges including mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and more. The jury must reach a unanimous decision in order to convict.  WOKV will be in the federal courthouse through the proceedings, which start Monday for two days of jury selection. The trial is slated to start Wednesday and expected to last two weeks.  Court records show the 39 people who have been summoned as prospective jurors have already been initially screened by the court for hardship. They have been randomly numbered, and that randomized list of names- and the corresponding juror number- has already been distributed to the attorneys for both sides.  Jury selection will begin with the judge outlining the nature of the case and questioning the prospective jurors. That process can include questions which have been submitted by the attorneys, at the judge’s discretion.  Federal court records show the US Attorney’s Office has submitted proposed instructions and questions for jury selection. The instructions include reinforcing that their decision should be based on evidence alone and not sympathy or prejudice for the defendant, explaining the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and not all possible doubt, how to consider the credibility of a witness, and the meaning of the various charges. The questions include whether the prospective jurors know anyone involved, have any issue with the nature of the charges, have ever been involved in legal proceedings in any capacity, have any impression of the federal government, have any bias against plea agreements, have any political views that could influence the verdict, and more.  After questioning, the panel will be excused while attorneys first raise any challenges “for cause”, and then issue “peremptory” strikes, which don’t have to have a cause. The defense has ten peremptory strikes, while the US Attorney’s Office has six, according to the court records.  Ultimately, twelve jurors will be seated through this process, which works down the list based on the randomly assigned juror numbers. The next two jurors on the list who weren’t seated on the panel will be slated as the alternates- with each side getting one peremptory challenge to exercise on the alternates.  WOKV will have comprehensive coverage through jury selection and the trial proceedings. Check back frequently at WOKV.com for updates.
  • The fraud trial against former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is scheduled to start in just over a week, and there could be some notable names called by prosecutors.  The US Attorney’s Office has submitted 45 names as potential witnesses and Corrine Brown’s lawyer submitted 33 names. Among the people who will be called are Jacksonville politicians, political strategists, prominent attorneys, independent authority members and leaders, Brown’s daughter, among others. The list also includes Brown’s former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the former head of One Door For Education Carla Wiley, both of whom have agreed to take plea deals for their part in this case, in exchange for helping prosecutors.  Brown, Wiley, and Simmons are accused of collecting about $800,000 in donations to One Door, saying the money would be used for scholarships and other charitable purposes. The US Attorney’s Office says, in reality, the money went toward personal expenses of the three involved.  Brown is facing various charges- aiding and abetting mail fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, scheme to conceal material facts on financial disclosure forms, corruptly endeavoring to obstruct or impede the IRS, and filing false income tax returns.  Jury selection is slated to start April 24th, with the trial scheduled to begin April 26th. Brown intends to testify during the trial. United States’ witness list:  1. Shawn Batsch, IRS-CI  2. Dawn Goldberg, IRS  3. Kimberly Henderson, FBI  4. Tracy Lane, IRS  5. Vanessa Stelly, FBI  6. Carolyn Chatman  7. Linda Foster  8. Reginald Gaffney  9. Nathaniel Glover  10. April Green  11. Eurmon Hervey  12. Charles McCormick  13. Ju’Coby Pittman  14. Doug Shackelford  15. Dawn Smith  16. Stanley Twiggs  17. Dawn Wright  18. John Baker  19. Robert Birnbaum  20. Stephen Bittel  21. Tandy Bondi  22. Edward Burr  23. Husein Cumber  24. Jack Hanania  25. Marva Brown Johnson  26. Gasper Lazzara  27. Richard Lipsky  28. Eugene Ludwig  29. Don Miller  30. Steve Pajcic  31. John Picerne  32. Robert Picerne  33. Kent Stermon  34. Michael Ward  35. Susan Wiles  36. Jessica Wynne  37. Voncier Alexander  38. Ingrid Burch  39. Tasha Cole  40. Siottis Jackson  41. Lavern Kelly  42. Brad Mims  43. Shantrel Brown  44. Elias Simmons  45. Carla Wiley Corrine Brown witness list: 1. Martin Luther King III  2. The Honorable Bennie Thompson  3. Geraldine Centeno  4. Peter Mikon  5. Julia Wilson  6. Rontel Batie  7. The Honorable Marcia Fudge  8. Patrick Lewis  9. Jackie Gray  10. Helen Sachs  12. Lavern Kelly  13. Tonia Bell  14. Ju’Coby Pittman  15. Jimmy R. Jenkins  16. Brenda Simmons  17. The Honorable Jeff Triplett  18. John Delaney  19. The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee  20. Bruce Marks  21. Nick Martinelli  22. Clint Brown  23. Barbara Skinner  24. Genesis Robinson  25. Cathy Gass  26. St. Elmo Crawford  27. James Sampson  28. Jesse Jackson  29. Roslyn Burrough  30. Hector Alcalde  31. Ava Parker  32. Mary Adams  33. Elias “Ronnie” Simmons
  • A 19-year-old man remains in critical condition a day after he was shot at an Orange Park apartment complex.   The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said the shooting happened at Parkland at Orange Park Apartment Homes on Wells Road around 9 p.m. on Friday. The teen was rushed to Orange Park Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. Deputies said the man is in critical but stable condition.   Action News Jax spoke to a neighbor who rushed to the teen’s aid. Ethan Wildermuth said he found the victim lying behind a tree, barely breathing. “I saw like two bullet holes in his leg. So we drug him out and I put my belt around his leg as a tourniquet,” Wildermuth said   Wildermuth said he heard at least six gunshots. It’s unclear how many times the victim was shot.   Several neighbors, including Wildermuth, said they are looking to move out of the area because of the recent crime.   “I don’t really want to be here. I don’t feel safe anymore,” Wildermuth said.   Investigators have yet to release a suspect description.   If you have any information about the case, you’re urged to contact the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512.
  • Parents in one Arlington neighborhood are taking some extra security steps following the attempted abduction of a boy last Friday. The principal of Fort Caroline Middle School sent a letter home yesterday reminding parents to talk about stranger danger with their kids. Police say the boy was walking to school when he says a man in a black newer-model Toyota four dour car pulled up and tried to grab him. The boy says he fought off the man and ran away. The attempted kidnapper is described as a white man in his 30's with wavy, sandy blond hair. The man had a tattoo on the back of his left hand of a heart with a ribbon through it and three letters on the ribbon.

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