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Latest from Sarah Thompson

    It's been a long road, but the Jacksonville City Council has unanimously voted to pass Mayor Lenny Curry's pension reform plan.   The bills include using a half-cent sales tax approved by voters back in the 2016 election to help pay down the $2.8 billion dollar pension debt.   But just moments after the plan was passed, some on the council were already talking about tweaks.   Councilman Danny Becton announced he's working on a bill that would make extra payments toward paying down the debt, comparing it to a 30-year mortgage.   'After a number of years, as your income grows, maybe you've gotten some promotions, that mortgage you took out many years ago, isn't as bad as it seemed that first day. Your like, 'Oh, I can pay more', and your accountant tells you that you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by putting a little bit more and making this a 15-year mortgage,' explains Becton.   Mayor Curry is set to sign the pension reform bills Tuesday, April 25, outside City Hall. He'll be joined by members of City Council, Sheriff Williams, union leaders, and business representatives.
  • The operation only spanned 3 days, but more than $1.5 million in illegal contraband was seized.   The Florida Highway Patrol is announcing big results in an operation targeting Duval County.   FHP says specially trained state troopers assigned to the Criminal Interdiction Unit, in conjunction with the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, conducted the operation from April 11th to the 13th.   During that time, troopers made 122 misdemeanor arrests, 61 felony arrests, 75 drug arrests, and apprehended 8 fugitives/warrants.   That's in addition to the haul they seized and recovered.   FHP says they found 4 stolen vehicles, 8 illegal firearms, about $12,000 of stolen merchandise, 416 pounds of synthetic marijuana, 286 grams of marijuana, 95.87 grams of powder cocaine, 4.1 grams of crack cocaine, 2.4 grams of Heroin, 6 grams of methamphetamine, 11.6 grams of MDMA (ecstasy), 13.0 grams of illegal prescription medication, as well as assorted drug paraphernalia and about $687.   We're told about 30 troopers took part in the operation.
  • It took nearly a year and a half, but a Jacksonville family is finally getting closure.   The Florida Highway Patrol has made an arrest after a deadly crash claimed the life of Louis Parada back on November 19, 2015.   Julius Williams has been arrested and is now charged with vehicular homicide, after a crash on I-10, near Chaffee Road.   Williams bond has been set at $100,003.
  • It's been an unsettling day for both parents and students.   Two potential threats were reported in two local schools, on the 18th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.   The first was in Clay County, where a  Clay High School student is now being questioned by investigators after school officials find him in possession of a 'shoot list'.   'We discovered a student was in possession of a shoot list, which he stated was a joke,' Principal Cary Dicks stated. 'The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.'   That student hasn't been identified or charged at this time.   Then, in St. Johns County, the district alerted parents of a threat at Patriot Oaks Academy.   The principal sent the following message via phone and email: 'This morning a parent and students reported a disturbing message posted to a Snapchat story. We worked with law enforcement to fully investigate this matter and determined no credible threat to the school, students or staff at any time. We are operating a normal school day. I appreciate your continued support as we responded to and assessed this situation.'   Those disturbing images were later revealed to be pictures of the 1999 Columbine attack.   We're told the issue is being addressed with the student and law enforcement is involved.
  • A known Jacksonville gang member will spend the next 12 years and 6 months in federal prison.   A US district judge announcing that sentence Thursday for Antwan 'Pappy' Harper, 22, after he pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a child.   According to court documents, in December 2015, Harper met a 15-year-old girl and advertised her for prostitution on the Internet. He then accepted payment for the girl to perform sexual acts with his associates and fellow gang members.   Harper is said to be a documented member of the PYC street gang.   In addition to his time in prison, Harper will serve a five-year term of supervision after his release and will have to register as a sex offender.   The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • It's meant to be a one-stop shop for new military families coming into Clay County.   Clay County Schools announcing a the creation of a Military Family Resource Center designed to give new students and their parents all kinds of information to ease their transition.   Superintendent Addison Davis says, 'This allows our parents to really have a sense of satisfaction and involvement with Clay County Schools and let them know we're here to help their child to be successful as they transition.'   Davis says there wasn't an unmet need in the county for a resource like this, but it was about being proactive.   'The county has received $7.2 million since 2011 of grant funding from the Department of Defense Education Activity, which is a DoDEA grant. And that money allows us, really, to concentrate on military-connected students to programs such as STEM, such as looking at robotics, such as looking at other areas and fields connected to technology,' explains Davis. The resource center will be located on the the west campus of Orange Park High School.
  • It's a major relief for everyone on the Southside.   The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has announced the arrest of Travis Jakubowski, 28, after a reported home invasion and sexual battery on Beach Boulevard earlier this week.   The unit commander of JSO's Special Assault Unit, Lt. Sharon Scott, says the arrest comes thanks to a tip from the Baker County Sheriff's Office, who reported a similar suspect description in a suspicious incident in their jurisdiction.   'The detectives from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office worked together with the Baker County Sheriff's Office and obtained a video surveillance that showed the suspect and his vehicle. Armed with that information, detectives were able to locate the same vehicle on the video from a camera near the scene of the home invasion,' says Scott.   Scott says that new information was released to the public and to patrol, who helped identify the suspect, as Jakubowski.   Jakubowski was arrested on the Southside at a family member’s residence Wednesday night, for armed home invasion, armed sexual battery, and false imprisonment. As for the incident in Baker County, WOKV has obtained the offense report, stemming from an incident on April 14th.   According to the report, a couple claimed their 17-year-old daughter and her friend had a strange interaction with a man at a gas station. The man is accused of staring at the two and then pulling a three foot-long Machete out of his vehicle and running his fingers up the blade. He then pulled out a large sledge hammer, before eventually implying that he was carrying a handgun. The teen’s dad later tracked down the same man at a nearby campground, but when he approached him about the gas station incident, the man apparently drove off. 
  • If you're a hardcore Jacksonville Jaguars fan, you'll want to keep week nights open.   The team has announced the official times and dates for their preseason games and all of them land on Thursday nights in August:   Preseason Game 1:       at New England Patriots (away)                                                Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 7:30 pm ET   Preseason Game 2:       vs. Tampa Bay Buccanneers (home)                                                  Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET on ESPN   Preseason Game 3:        vs. Carolina Panthers (home)                                                 Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm ET   Preseason Game 4:        at Atlanta Falcons (away)                                               Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 7:00 pm ET
  • More than two years after a deadly workplace accident, a Ponte Vedra Beach man is facing charges.   The Department of Justice announcing Wednesday that Peter Nees, 49, has been indicted for allegedly making false statements to federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators.   Nees is accused of falsely telling investigators that he did not alter the scene of the accident in any way, when he knew the statement was false.   The incident in question happened back in November 2014.   An employee with Pinnacle Roofing Contractors fell through a skylight, while repairing a roof off Powers Avenue. He later died from his injuries.   OSHA cited the company, saying the death was preventable, as the employer failed to install protective cages over the skylights. Nees, if convicted on all counts, faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison. 
  • It's a change she wanted to make from day one in office and now she's following through.   State Attorney Melissa Nelson has added a new step for attorneys seeking the death penalty--- a review board.   That board, officially the Grand Jury Indictment Review Panel (GJIRP), will have five permanent members and four rotating ones that will serve six month terms.   The board will be in charge of making a recommendation on whether to seek the death penalty to Nelson.   Nelson will be in charge of making the final call. She told our news partner, Action News Jax, back in January 2017, that she thinks the process 'will work to instill confidence in the public.'
  • Sarah Thompson

    Sarah Thompson is the Afternoon Producer and Evening Anchor for WOKV and has been with the team since October 2013. She's a University of Florida graduate and a Jacksonville-native.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • The opening statements in the federal fraud trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown have been pushed back, after jury selection fails to wrap up in two long days. The court had hoped to have the 12 person jury and two alternates selected by the end of the day Tuesday. All of the questioning is done, but the attorneys have not yet had the chance to exercise all of their challenges to prospective panelists- with several dozen people still being held. Around 5:45 PM, Magistrate Judge James R. Klindt told the courtroom “some complications for jurors” that he wasn’t previously aware of prevented him from holding them any later in to the evening. Because of that, he decided to end for the night, and resume Wednesday to finalize the jury. Opening statements, which had been scheduled for 9:30AM, will now take place at 1PM. The first day of jury questioning focused specifically on this case, with Klindt asking prospective jurors whether they were previously aware of the charges, if they have any feelings toward former and- ultimately- if the information and pre-conceived notions could be set aside in order to consider only the evidence presented at trial. Prospective jurors were also able to raise issues of “extreme hardship”. In all, that led to 21 people being excused from the pool, while 44 rolled over to today.  Klindt wanted to have around 50 prospective jurors before moving to the second phase of questioning, so more were summoned to report for jury duty Tuesday morning. The day started with those new jurors facing the same hardship and case knowledge questions as those who first reported Monday. Of the 30 questioned as a group, 17 said they have some knowledge of the case and six said they have strong feelings toward Brown one way or the other. While 19 were flagged for further questioning, the court only needed to vet a few in order to reach a threshold where they were comfortable moving forward- 53 total prospective jurors, including the ones who rolled over from yesterday. The second round of questioning included looking at areas which are more broad and standard for jury selection- employment, prior experience in the legal or criminal systems, and more. Ultimately, 20 people were singled out for individual questioning following group responses. Many of them indicated they knew someone or had themselves been involved in either an arrest or some kind of legal filing. The majority of those who were questioned told he judge those legal proceedings would influence their ability to listen to evidence and render a fair and impartial verdict. Unlike Monday, when prospective jurors were being challenged “for cause” as they were being individually questioned, Klindt allowed for a few strikes and then determined the rest should be done at the conclusion of the questioning. Those cause challenges will be the first thing tackled Wednesday. After that, prospective jurors will be “sat” in the order of their randomly selected number, and the first 12 designated as the possible panel. From there, both prosecutors and the defense have a specific number of “peremptory” strikes- or strikes without cause- which they can exercise. As prospective jurors are removed from the box for those strikes, the next in line by number will fill in.  Once the 12 person jury is chosen, a similar process takes place for the two alternates. Once that is done, the jury is set.  It’s hoped that the jury will be seated by 11AM, at which point US District Judge Timothy Corrigan- who will preside over the trial itself- will come in an instruct the jury. There will then be a break, and opening statements will formally kick off the trial Wednesday at 1PM. This jury will not be sequestered for this trial, which is currently scheduled for three weeks. Klindt has given the pool specific and repeated instruction that they’re not allowed to consume any news or social media about the trial, that they’re not allowed to communicate with anyone about the case, and that if someone speaks about the case in their presence they’re supposed to leave.  Brown and two others are accused of soliciting more than $800,000 in donations to “One Door For Education”- a group she represented as a charity- but using the money for personal expenses instead, including travel, luxury events, and more. Her two alleged co-conspirators- former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the head of One Door Carla Wiley- both previously pleaded guilty. Brown has been indicted on 22 charges.  WOKV is in the federal courthouse as these proceedings move forward. Check back frequently to WOKV.com for updates, and follow our reporter Stephanie Brown on Twitter for updates during court recesses.
  • A dog named Hollywood is getting medical care after he was left in critical condition at a South Florida police department.  WFOR reported that a woman left the Yorkie in a chair last week at the Hollywood Police Department. >> Read more trending news “Basically she just came in and said she had to go to work, said she was busy,” Rose Mone of the Hollywood Police Department told WFOR. “She found it over there somewhere and put the dog over here on the chair and walked out and that was it.” The dog has a painful infection and a bladder blockage.   “He couldn’t walk, he was crying,” Ed Degelsmith of Glimmer of Life, a nonprofit, no-kill rescue organization, said. “I think if he would have (gone) to animal rescue, they would have put him down because he was so sick,” Degelsmith said. “He knows he was at death’s door and he’s got a second chance.” According to the Glimmer of Life website, the dog’s surgery is scheduled this week. Degelsmith has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of the dog’s treatment and surgery. Kelcie Willis of the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
  • Panera Bread Co. will hire 10,000 new employees by the end of 2017 as it expands its delivery service, the company said in a statement Monday. According to Panera, the company is planning to expand delivery options to 35 to 40 percent of its locations. It now delivers at 15 percent of its locations. Panera president Blaine Hurst says each café will hire between seven and 12 staff members and drivers. The drivers will use their own vehicles which will be subject to inspection on a regular basis, Hurst said. The delivery service will be digital and mobile ordering-based. The radius will be within an 8-minute drive of the restaurant and will be available between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. The order must be a minimum of $5, and the delivery charge will be $3 in most areas, according to the statement. The expanded delivery service is expected to add $250,000 per year to each store’s annual average revenue of $2.6 million. There are around 2,000 stores in 46 states and Ontario, Canada. Panera is in the process of being acquired by JAB Holding. The deal is reported to be valued at about $7.5 billion.  To find out if Panera delivers in your area, click here.  
  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law when he failed to disclose income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday. Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, along with ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, told reporters Tuesday Flynn failed to ask for permission to speak at a 2015 event in Russia or register to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey. Flynn then failed to report the money he earned for the speaking engagement and lobbying efforts on his personal financial disclosure form when he applied to have his security clearance reinstated to work as national security adviser. Flynn's consulting firm accepted $530,000 for work with a firm that is associated with Turkey's government. He received $45,000 for his speaking engagement in Russia. The Associated Press reported Flynn’s lawyer filed paperwork with the Justice Department in February disclosing that he had done lobbying work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey” between August and November 2016.  Flynn’s contract ended on Nov. 15, three days before he was appointed Trump’s national security adviser. Chaffetz and Cummings said they had seen classified memos concerning Flynn’s activities. They also said they saw Flynn’s disclosure form. “Personally I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz told reporters. “He was supposed to get permission, he was supposed to report it, and he didn’t,” Cummings said.  Flynn was fired as national security adviser in February after he made misleading comments to Vice President Mike Pence about discussions he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States. With Flynn's failure to obtain permission from military authorities for the payments and failure to disclose them, the retired general could have violated a constitutional ban on foreign payments to retired military officers. “The law requires him to seek permission ... from the secretary of state and the Department of Defense,” Chaffetz said. “The response we’re getting is there is no information, and that, we believe, is the potential violation.” A The New York Times story says U.S. Army investigators have found no record that Flynn has 'filed the required paperwork for the trip' to Russia in 2015, nor reported the income he received, as is required by the emoluments cause in the U.S. Constitution. What is the emoluments clause and what does it say? Here’s a quick look. What is an emolument? An emolument – in its dictionary definition – is payment for work done or “gain from employment or position.” So if it’s pay for a service, what’s wrong with that? Nothing is wrong with it, as long as the “gain” or payment does not come from unauthorized work for a foreign government. The title of nobility clause, Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution, addresses foreign emoluments, or money paid by a foreign government. The section reads: “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”  What constitutes a violation of the clause? For a violation of the emoluments clause to have occurred the person must qualify as a U.S. officer and must have accepted an emolument from a foreign government. Flynn would fall under the “U.S. officer” portion of the clause since he is a retired U.S. military officer that had the potential to be called back into active duty. What happens if you are caught doing that?  The foreign emoluments clause does not specify a penalty for its violation. Cummings has suggested in a letter to President Donald Trump that if Flynn violated the clause, then he owes the U.S. the amount of money he received from Russia and Turkey. Flynn claims he received his fee from Russia Today, a state-owned television station, not the Russian government, thus he did not take pay from a foreign government. RT paid Leading Authorities, a private firm that arranges for speakers for events, according to the Yale Journal on Regulation.
  • Skeletal remains found earlier this month by Idaho Fish and Game officers appear to belong to a pair of children, Elmore County sheriff’s deputies said Monday. >> Read more trending news It was not clear how long the children had been buried before their remains were found April 15 in a badger hole just north of Mountain Home. Deputies initially only believed the remains belonged to a single child. “It is clear by the condition of the remains that they have been buried for a considerable amount of time,” deputies said in a news release.  No clothing was found at the burial site and the children’s genders were not apparent. Authorities said it was unclear whether the deaths were the result of foul play. The burial site is near the Oregon Trail. Officials are investigating whether the bones could have been left by 19th century migrants heading west on the trail. Deputies said the exact ages of the bones will be determined by carbon dating. A preliminary investigation showed that two children were buried one atop another in the badger den near Hot Creek Road. One child appeared to be between 3 and 5 years old and the other between 4 and 9 years old at the time of burial, officials said. An archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management told deputies that the grave did not appear to be a Native American burial site. Deputies said investigators are working with local law enforcement agencies to determine whether the remains match any missing child cases. Authorities continue to investigate.

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