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Latest from Stephanie Brown

    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.
  • When the federal courthouse doors opened in Downtown Jacksonville Monday morning, prospective jurors crowded around and quietly filed in. By 8:54 a.m., former Congresswoman Corrine Brown was sitting in a courtroom next to her attorney, with a small notepad and pens in front of her, waiting for the people who would decide her future to file in to the courtroom to be screened. While a court order indicated 39 prospective jurors had been summoned for the fraud trial, the instructions laid out Monday morning by Magistrate Judge James R. Klindt put the pool at 65 people. By the time the day was done, 21 of those prospective jurors had been excused. The number will be whittled down to twelve jurors and two alternates, and the court aims to have that done by the end of the day Tuesday. Brown and two others are accused of collecting more than $800,000 in donations for a group they claimed was a non-profit - One Door For Education - and using the money for personal expenses instead, including travel, car repairs, and events hosted by or held in honor of Brown, who was in Congress at the time. Her two alleged co-conspirators - her former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the head of One Door Carla Wiley- have both taken plea deals. Brown faces twenty-two charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and more. If convicted, she faces more than 350 years in prison. A jury must issue a unanimous verdict to convict. After the list of prospective jurors was passed out to the attorneys, there was a brief break so either side could sort through the information. Brown was actively engaged with her attorney James Smith III during this break, including pointing to different items on the papers that were handed out. Prospective jurors then filed in one-by-one, seated in the order of their randomly assigned number, to face the initial group questioning. For this jury selection process, Klindt told the courtroom he had studied high profile and high publicity cases from the Middle District of Florida and the 11th Circuit to determine the best practices. Even before the standard questions, he asked jurors about any familiarity with Brown, whether they’ve supported her in the past, whether they have any bias toward or against her, whether they know the witnesses who will be called, and similar areas. While there were only a few people who said they knew Brown or had any feelings about her, more than half of the pool- 39 people- had some level of personal knowledge about this case because of conversations, social media, or what they’ve consumed through the news. These questions were laid out in the group setting, with jurors raising their hands, for an affirmative answer. Individual questioning then followed, where the court got a better idea of the range of knowledge about the case and, more importantly, whether that information has led the prospective jurors to form an opinion on guilt or innocence, and if that opinion could be set aside to consider only the evidence presented as trial and the instructions provided by the court. The court also probed deeper in to any “extreme hardship” that would prevent a juror from committing to this trial, with most of those relating to medical or financial issues. The extended questioning was done individually, with Klindt specifically saying he wanted to be careful that anything a prospective juror had to say would not influence others. In all, 45 prospective jurors in the 65 person pool were questioned through Monday, specifically about this case. 21 were excused “for cause”- nine of those were based solely on prior knowledge of the case or feelings toward Brown that couldn’t be set aside, while another six were excused for multiple factors that included pre-trial publicity. The remaining strikes “for cause” were because of hardship or familiarity with people involved in the process. Two strikes “for cause” were denied by Klindt. The 24 prospective jurors who were questioned and retained, along with the 20 people who didn’t face questioning Monday, will return Tuesday for the second phase of screening. That will involve the standard questioning, like personal information of the prospective jurors, whether they’ve served on a jury before and other areas. Before that second phase, though, Klindt has decided to add another ten or so prospective jurors to the pool. They’ll be individually questioned to start the day, and any remaining after that will join the group of 44 rolled over from Monday. In addition to strikes “for cause”, attorneys have a set number of “peremptory” strikes they can exercise when questioning is done. The attorneys for both sides have been allowed to ask questions of the prospective jurors as well, through the process so far. WOKV is inside the federal courthouse as these proceedings move forward. Check back frequently at WOKV.com for updates.
  • Twelve jurors will decide the future of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown- and they’ll be selected from a group of 65 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 65 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.
  • One woman is dead and another has life threatening injuries as the result of a domestic-related homicide in Orange Park, with the suspect still on the loose. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says a juvenile also suffered minor injuries in the incident, on the 400 block of Heron Court Sunday afternoon.  The suspect has been identified as 36-year-old Kenneth Leonard Poythress, Jr. He was last seen in a 2008 red or maroon four-door Honda Accord with Florida license plate 037LSE. He was last seen wearing jeans, a dark colored shirt, an orange construction type vest, and a camouflage cap. There is no information at this time on what motivated this crime, the relationship of those involved, or what kind of weapon was used.  If you have any information about this incident, you’re asked to contact CCSO at 904-264-6512.
  • 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.
  • The Florida Commission on Ethics has rejected a recommended settlement of the case against former Public Defender Matt Shirk, which they likened to a plea of “no contest”. The recommended order between Shirk and a Commission Advocate said Shirk would accept a public censure and reprimand and pay a $2,500 civil penalty. That settlement faced a vote by the Commission Friday, but was rejected.  “I owe the citizens of Florida a just fine and punishment, and it’s just my opinion that $2,500 and a reprimand does not measure up to the ill repute that he cast upon this public office,” says Commission Chair Matt Carlucci. The case centers on complaints Shirk improperly hired and fired- or directed the improper hiring and firing- several employees. He is also accused of inappropriate workplace interactions, serving or consuming alcohol in a City building, and disclosing information about his representation of a client. A grand jury called on Shirk to resign over the allegations, but declined to pursue criminal charges. Carlucci says he has tried to be kind to Shirk through the process, but the Commission needs to keep their responsibility to the public as the foremost concern. “I cannot, nor will I, support this weak joint stipulation,” he says. In regard to the proposed penalty, Carlucci says it’s important that they remember they could fine between $0 and $10,000, so being on the lower end of the scale doesn’t seem just. Other Commissioners joined his concern that the admission of guilt applies only to these proceedings. The Commission Advocate says that was requested by Shirk because of an investigation he is also facing by the Florida Bar. “I do believe that he’s got some serious problems with the Florida Bar,” says Commission Advocate Elizabeth Miller. The Commission made it clear during their discussion that they wanted Shirk to explicitly admit guilt. Carlucci also offered that $7,500 would be a more fitting financial penalty. Ultimately, the Commission can only reject the motion, not recommend specific terms for the settlement, although Miller was present during the discussion and is able to use what she heard in potential future negotiations. The Executive Director of the Commission says Shirk and Miller can now try to negotiate a new agreement, or Shirk can request a full hearing. Shirk failed to win reelection as Public Defender for Duval, Nassau, and Clay counties last year.
  • With just about six months to go before the annual Florida/Georgia football game in Jacksonville- and a year after the deal was expected- the City now has a formal contract on the table.  “This historic event is staying in Jacksonville. What it means for the City- it’s part of the fabric of who we are,” says Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. WOKV first told you last March that the City, University of Florida Athletic Association, and University of Georgia Athletic Association had agreed to terms for a five year contract. The intent was to have that contract executed by April 2016- ahead of the 2016 game, which was the final one under the prior contract.  That timeline was not met, and internal communications obtained by WOKV show the contract has spent months bouncing between Jacksonville’s Office of the General Counsel and attorneys for the universities. New documents filed with the City Council show a five-year deal has now been fully agreed to between the Mayor’s Office and both universities, and is only pending City Council approval.  WOKV has obtained the full agreement, which  covers five games- with the first being 2017 and the final being 2021. The Office of Sports and Entertainment would have oversight.  It substantially reflects the terms agreed to in 2016, which give a total of $2.75 million in incentives- a $125,000 “signing bonus” and $250,000 annual guaranteed payment for each team- which didn’t exist under the prior contract. This contract also includes each team getting an increase in their travel stipend by $10,000- with the cost going up to $60,000. The City additionally covers air travel for the University of Georgia up to $350,000 each year, although unlike the prior contract, there is no built-in annual raise in that cost. “This is a $31.5 million economic impact, and there’s a tremendous return for taxpayers here,” Curry tells WOKV. Curry says he used a scorecard to determine the cost and benefit of the financial commitment. He believes the bed tax and sales tax money, among other things, outweigh the cost to the City of offering these incentives and hosting the game. Mirroring the prior contract, the universities receive full ticket revenue and do not pay to play at EverBank Field, under this new deal. The City covers the cost of game day operations, but retains the right to operate concessions, while the schools have merchandising. A completely new provision of this contract is the use of the new amphitheater and flex field- collectively Daily’s Place- which is being constructed next to the stadium. The City will have sole control over the programming in those venues, and will retain the revenue. WOKV asked Curry whether there are events already being planned for the weekend around 2017, and he said only that the City’s Sports and Entertainment Office was in charge of that. This contract also speaks about the City using “its best effort” to install two permanent signs at the stadium referencing the game- which is a provision of the Terms Sheet. The City would cover the cost. The 2016 Terms Sheet specifically mentions that there would be a separate Memorandum of Understanding for a 90/10 sponsorship split between the schools and City, respectively. There is no clear mention of either of these provisions in the contract. Instead, the terms stand for now with the schools retaining the revenue. Also reflective of the Terms Sheet, the three parties agree to begin negotiations on a contract extension ten days after the 2018 game and lasting through ten days after the 2019 game. The prior contract included only one “right of first negotiation”, but the new contract that’s been filed has a “second right of negotiation” as well, which would start four months after the 2019 game and conclude ten days after the 2020 game. If there is no extension agreement at the end of the second negotiation, the schools are no longer obligated to negotiate exclusively with the City. Curry declined to speak specifically to why the second option was added in, except to say that the prior Administration had not reached a deal with the schools before leaving office. The proposed contract will be vetted and voted on by the Jacksonville City Council in the coming weeks. Despite the fact that there is no written agreement on file, Curry says there has been no impact on the 2017 game, and that planning and implementing the event is in full swing.
  • The Southeast US Boat Show and Oyster Jam Music Festival isn’t taking place this weekend, but it has been rescheduled. The event organizer Jimmy Hill, with Current Productions, says they have booked Met Park for May 19-21. This comes after their announcement earlier this week that the event would not take place this weekend- because they had never formally booked the venue.  The City and Hill confirm there was an outstanding balance from the 2016 event that initially prevented Current from booking the venue. That debt wasn’t resolved until the end of January, but at that time, Met Park had been booked by the organizers of Welcome to Rockville, to use for moving in and setting up for their event the following weekend. The City of Jacksonville says they facilitated between The Boat Show/Welcome to Rockville to try to work out a plan that would have allowed both to occupy the space this weekend, but that ultimately didn’t lead to an agreement. Hill says the City had given him verbal and informal commitment that a deal would be reached, and he trusted that the event’s 20 year history with the City would mean that was enough.  To sort through the commitments and communications, WOKV requested all of the written communication between Current Productions and Jacksonville’s Sports and Entertainment Office over the last year in connection to the Southeast US Boat Show and Oyster Jam Music Festival. Hundreds of emails show there were warnings from the outset that there was no guarantee a compromise would be reached, but there was nonetheless substantial confusion in the final weeks about what would actually be taking place.  This all started in May, when Current Productions emailed a request for the dates. That was followed in June, with a formal application for the 2017 show. Call logs show there was a brief conversation that day, and then a June 24 email shows the City sending notice of final settlement needed for the 2016 show. On July 28, a Special Events Permit Coordinator followed up again to remind Current Productions about the payment, specifically adding that they cannot move forward with any 2017 agreement until that payment is received.  Another reminder was sent in August, at which point Current Productions responded that they were working on paying the bill, but faced some financial constraints because of a boating accident.  In August, a special events permit coordinator sent a list internally of a dozen events scheduled for Met Park in 2017- including The Boat Show/Oyster Jam April 21-23, and Welcome to Rockville April 28-30. At the time of this internal email August 29, the City had received an application from The Boat Show/Oyster Jam, but not yet from Welcome to Rockville.  About two weeks later, the Special Events Manager emailed details about 2016 events with outstanding balances. The Boat Show was listed with a $12,711.24 outstanding balance, and Welcome to Rockville had an $84,213.63 total still outstanding. The email indicated that the Special Events Office had been in touch with representatives of The Boat Show, but that follow-up had been spotty.  September 30th, a memo to Current Productions was drafted offering a four-part payment plan as final notice to settle the 2016 balance or be sent to collections. That was sent October 13th, according to the City emails, with the first deadline being the next day. The Special Events Manager noted the next day that they had not heard back from Current, and at that time, the Sports and Entertainment Officer notified Current the balance was being moved to collections.  An internal email toward the end of October shows Welcome to Rockville’s promoter, Danny Wimmer Presents, cleared their 2016 balance with the City, and by November, emails show they had submitted their application for Met Park for 2017.  A November email indicates Current Production had called the City. That was followed about a week later with a meeting in person. An email from the Tax Collector’s Office shows Current Productions then tried to start making payments, but a December internal communication among the City shows the check bounced for insufficient funds.  December 16th, the Sports and Entertainment Officer notified Current Productions that the check had bounced, and that they would now be responsible for not only the payment, but a $317.78 service charge as well. Current emailed a response that they believed the check should have had sufficient funds, and were researching what happened.  Communication started to pick up in January, when Current reached out to the City about getting the 2017 event on the City’s calendar. Welcome to Rockville had already booked the dates, so the City responded that the venue was not available, and that Current still had the outstanding balance from 2016- which meant they did not have any dates reserved for 2017. At that time, the balance was down to $6355.62, with the other portion having been paid December 22nd. The final balance was paid January 31st.  An email from January 31st from the City shows a schedule of events at Met Park, so the Boat Show/Oyster Jam organizers could consider an alternate date. That same email said the City would reach out to Danny Wimmer Presents, but that there was no promise of a work-around. Current Productions engaged Danny Wimmer Presents to explore working together on the Boat Show/Oyster Jam dates.  In early February, some representatives of the Mayor’s office and senior staff got involved because of a complaint from Current Productions that they weren’t getting calls back from various City representatives. A meeting was established with all parties to explore a potential workaround that would allow the Boat Show/Oyster Jam to take place on the desired weekend.  Following that meeting, Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer emailed the Mayor’s Office to say they had met, and that the City was offering only to assist them in exploring whether Welcome To Rockville’s organizers would agree to some kind of special arrangement. Throughout the months of correspondence, the City notes that Danny Wimmer Presents  A March 8th email from the Special Events Manager notifies the Sports and Entertainment Officer that Current Productions is telling people they will be at Met Park, and he’s unsure why. They had been looped in after Current reached out to the City’s special events management company to ask about parking during the event dates.  On March 9th, a City Councilman asks the Special Events Office whether a date had been set for the Boat Show, and the Sports and Entertainment Officer responded that they were looking at the second to last week of April, but that they were working through paperwork and logistics. By March 19th, and internal communication showed the office still didn’t know the “direction of the boat show”, and that they were getting a lot of inquiries from entities, including JSO, their event management company, and others. That still hadn’t been resolved by March 24th.  Some insurance information was sent from Current Productions to the City March 28th. That was followed March 29th with an email requesting a coordinated conversation about logistics for the event in order to ensure they would not impact Welcome to Rockville. Internal emails showed there was still no resolution, and then on April 4th, an executive with Danny Wimmer Presents requested a phone call.  The ensuing days were filled with frequent communication, but little consensus. Current Production emailed their tentative site plan, but that was followed with questions about scheduling, liability and insurance, and other areas. The City made clear they would not assume any risk or incur any cost to accommodate the plan.  On April 11th, Current Productions questioned whether the City’s “assurance of a solution” was firm, because there had not been much progress on the administrative items that would need to be done, like getting a written agreement. The same day, the Sports and Entertainment Officer again intervenes with all parties, emailing details of Current’s proposal. Danny Wimmer Presents responded that they still didn’t have enough details to commit- specifically looking for more about the load-in and load-out schedules and the time needed to clean the park between events. They further asked to be indemnified by both the City and Current from any loss that resulted from the dual occupancy and requested a damage deposit. Subsequent emails expressed concern about what this potential agreement would mean to their event timeline, the cost that would have, and whether Current planned to cover those costs.  While this communication was ongoing, questions started surfacing among those not immediately involved in the negotiations. An Intergovernmental Affairs Director reached out to the Special Events office on April 12th to confirm the Boat Show was set, saying she had been getting questions from Council members. The Sports and Entertainment Officer responded things were not confirmed, restating that Danny Wimmer Presents has the space and Current Productions had not yet met their terms for dual occupancy.  On April 14th, a Met Park Operations Supervisor reached out to Special Events saying he assumed the Boat Show would take place because the production company was having equipment delivered. The Special Events Office said that was not the case.  The City had set an April 13th deadline, and when the Sports and Entertainment Officer engaged both parties on the 14th, Danny Wimmer Presents initially said there had not been an agreement, but Current Productions followed up saying they had agreed to all conditions. Danny Wimmer Presents followed up again saying it was the first time they had been told Current agreed to the conditions- but there were questions that still hadn’t been addressed, one of which being Danny Wimmer Presents wanting Current Productions to show they could guarantee to cover certain losses that could arise from a late move-out.  By this Monday, the City told Current Productions to notify its customers that their event would be rescheduled- if they so choose. The City told them they were willing to work to immediately identify another date, if the organizers wanted to pursue that route.  Throughout the correspondence, the City makes frequent reference to wanting to accommodate all parties, because both promoters had been longstanding partners with the City. All sides were complementary and showed willingness to work to reach a solution.  Hill says the Southeast US Boat Show and Oyster Jam Music Festival has now been rescheduled for May 19-21.
  • Three people have been arrested for kidnapping, robbing, and attempting to kill an elderly Neptune Beach man on Jacksonville’s far Westside.  We first told you last week that an 86-year-old man had been found Saturday with his throat cut off Maxville-Macclenny Highway. At the time, the victim’s identity was not known.  The victim’s wife had reported him missing after he didn’t return home from errands and suspicious activity had been reported on his credit cards.  “She had attempted to contact him via phone, was unsuccessful. She was concerned,” says JSO Assistant Chief Scott Dingee. A Silver Alert was issued, and investigators eventually connected that to the victim.  Police quickly realized the victim’s vehicle and other items were missing. That vehicle was found in Miami-Dade County Sunday, so representatives with both JSO and the Neptune Beach Police Department headed to South Florida to investigate.  On Monday, April 10th, investigators got a tip that 34-year-old Douglas Cercy was involved and had fled in the victim’s car. Investigators confirmed that, and also linked two other people- 37-year-old Jennifer Schulte and 21-year-old Ray Jones.  The suspects were all found at a bus station in Boca Raton. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and police in that area coordinated with JSO to detain all three. The suspects were taken to the Delray Beach Police Department headquarters and interviewed by JSO.  JSO says two of the suspects gave detailed accounts of what happened. “The victim was lured to a location on the Westside, where he was kidnapped at gunpoint, robbed of various property including his car, and taken in to the woods, where his throat was slashed,” Dingee says. It’s unclear at this time how the suspects initially came in contact with the victim and how they lured him. All three have been arrested for attempted murder, robbery, and kidnapped.  The victim has not yet been able to speak with JSO because of his medical condition. Because of that, JSO is still withholding some information, including the suspects’ booking photos.
  • Accused of targeting a flea market vendor multiple times. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a man who took multiple items from a booth at the St. Johns County Flea Market, and then returned the following weekend to try to steal from the victim two more times.  The initial theft happened on February 17th, according to SJSO. The suspect was driving a vehicle that appears to be an early 2000’s maroon GMC Sierra pickup truck with a built-in steel rack attached to the bed and chrome rail caps. The vehicle has a damaged Florida tag, although the tag number couldn’t be determined.  If you have any information on this suspect or vehicle, you’re asked to contact SJSO Deputy Livingston at clivingston@sjso.org.
  • Stephanie Brown

    Assistant News Director

    Stephanie Brown is the WOKV Assistant Director of News and Afternoon Reporter. She guides the direction of WOKV’s news content, frequently contributes to social and digital platforms, and is a leading voice on-air. Stephanie has been with the team full-time since May 2012, which is when she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in telecommunication and political science. When she’s not enterprising story ideas or digging in to an investigation, she’s likely cooking or enjoying downtime with her dog.

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  • 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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