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Latest from Matt Augustine

    Some changes are coming for an intersection you probably drive every day. The Florida Department of Transportation is upgrading signs at the intersection of I-95 and I-10. We’re told they’re working to make signs more reflective in order to cut back on the need to light them. “We want to try to make it as clear as we can for signage,” says FDOT Spokesman Ron Tittle. Tittle says the project will be focused on I-95 from MLK Parkway to I-10, and then I-10 west from I-95 for a few miles. He says there wasn’t any specific incident that is sparking the change, rather their engineers are constantly assessing what could improve efficiency and safety on major roads. They’ll also be adding more “mile marker” style signs at the interchange, so that in the event of a breakdown or other emergency, you can more clearly give emergency responders a picture of where you are. Tittle says the construction will last through mid-next year, but shouldn’t have a very substantial impact on traffic. Single lane closures will begin around 7:30PM, and if needed, double lane closures would be after 9:30 PM on I-10 or 10 PM on I-95.
  • One woman is in critical condition after a fire in the La Esparanza apartments near Memorial Hospital on University Blvd. on the Southside 'This was basically almost the icing on the cake, to use the archetype cliché, of a busy day for the B-shift,' says Jacksonville Fire/Rescue spokesman Tom Francis. Francis says JFRD got the call around 2:30 a.m. and they arrived to find one of the apartment buildings burning from the bottom up. Firefighters had to enter the burning building after hearing reports of a person inside. 'They found an adult female in a bedroom on the floor, the walls already encased in flame. They brought her out and she was transported to UF Health where she's listed in critical condition,' says Francis. JFRD says that even though this is a large apartment complex, firefighters were able to quickly get the flames under control and keep it from spreading to other buildings. Francis says in all, there were about 60 firefighters on scene. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. The State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating. The Red Cross is also assisting families living in the eight apartments that were damaged by the fire. WOKV will update this story as more information becomes available.
  • A former employee with the State Attorney's Office in the Nassau County office who says four years after she was wrongfully fired in 2009, she finally got closure Wednesday in the form of a $175,000 settlement. 'I felt like I was making a complaint to the proper people that I was supposed to make my complaint to,' says Julie Lyncker. Lyncker says she filed a complaint with State Attorney Angela Corey about her new boss, Wesley White, who she says had been asking her to call then-sheriff and family friend Tommy Seagraves and ask for things. 'He asked me to call him when he was on vacation because [White] felt like the Sheriff would answer my call and no one else's.' Lyncker says White embarrassed her in front of other employees on several occasions when she said she didn't feel comfortable doing what White asked. She says when she filed the complaint, she became the focus of the investigation instead and was eventually fired for what the State Attorney's Office said was having conversations about sex with employees. 'None of those other people were disciplined. The only difference between Julie Lyncker and those other employees is that Julie Lyncker complained about Wesley White,' says Lyncker's attorney Joseph DeBelder. Lyncker says she was fired in retaliation for filing her complaint, but in a statement the State Attorney's Office denies that. 'I never thought that I would lose my job.' She says she's just ready to move on with her life. The full statement from the State Attorney's Office reads: 'The SAO maintains that Ms. Lyncker's allegations of retaliatory discharge are not valid. The SAO contested the claims, would continue to contest the claims, and in good faith believes there is a valid foundation for the defense of such claims. But as is common in civil cases, Ms. Lyncker and the SAO have determined that their respective interests would be best served by completely resolving and settling this case.' Wesley White also denied any allegations of wrongdoing and says he opposes any form of settlement in the case.
  • We're finding out that scheduled repairs to the leaky downtown library are being delayed several months after the city says the damage is worse than they originally thought. 'I know money is tight, but yes, I would like the library taken care of,' says frequent library-goer Heather Johnston. Between the water-stained walls, the plywood on the skylights, and the tarp still on some fourth floor books, library-goers like Johnston and others say they can't believe the repairs aren't done yet. 'Do the necessary fixes so that it would not put its customers in a bad situation,' says resident Shirley Reed. It's a problem the city knew about for two years before they set aside $1.4 million last March to fix it. That was supposed to be done last month but a city spokesperson says the project is bigger than expected and they're pushing that completion date back to May. 'We pay our taxes, we do what we can to make sure the library is here for all kids,' says Johnston. Councilman Don Redman oversees the downtown district, and says with a library this new, there's no reason for all the issues. He says he's been told this winter's weather has played a role in the delay. 'It's been a rough winter. We've had a lot of rain and a lot of setbacks, so they tell me is the excuse that they're using,' said Redman. Despite being asked several times, the city spokesperson would not say how much the project has cost so far, saying only that the project budget for the library is $1.4 million. Councilman Redman couldn't say either whether or not the project had gone over budget but says he'd imagine if it did he would find out about it because council would have to approve the additional funds. The city has filed a lawsuit against the companies that built the main library because of the leaks. That litigation is ongoing.
  • We're hearing from one of your local representatives about how proposed cuts to the military could affect Northeast Florida. 'We'll look at what [President Obama] has to say but I can tell you with confidence what we end up doing is not going to be a direct reflection of what he has proposed,' Congressman Ander Crenshaw tells Jacksonville's Morning News. Crenshaw says the world isn't getting any smaller or safer, so this isn't the time to be making deep cuts to America's armed forces. One of those cuts? The proposed drawdown on production of littoral combat ships, which are replacing the old Navy frigates. Crenshaw says  the fleet would be at its smallest since World War I. 'And these littoral combat ships, all of those on the East Coast will be homeported at Mayport and they're the key to the Navy's future. He says cuts like reducing production on littoral combat ships will likely prolong the delay on Jacksonville getting a nuclear carrier. 'The good news is the Navy hasn't changed its mind. It's still part of their strategic dispersal strategy.' Defense secretary Chuck Hagel also wants another round of Base Realignment and Closure. Crenshaw's response? 'That's going to fall on deaf ears.' Listen to Crenshaw's full interview on Jacksonville's Morning News here
  • It was a case of mistaken identity and hasty police work. We're hearing an apology from the Clay County Sheriff's Office for wrongfully arresting and putting an 18-year-old in jail for 35 days man for a crime he didn't commit. Cody Lee Williams says he felt hopeless while he was in prison and only found out that he was being charged with having sex with a girl under age 12 weeks after he'd been in jail. When he made the connection that police were actually looking for Cody Raymond Williams, with whom the innocent Cody had gone to school at Clay High School, he called his mother, who called investigators and got them to admit they'd made a mistake. Sheriff Beseler said in a statement 'In fairness, let me say Deputy Hawkins has a good record with our agency.  He has no prior discipline and many commendations in his file. In this case, however, he took short-cuts and didn’t do a thorough investigation. The result was an innocent man was accused of a terrible crime he didn’t commit.  Arresting an innocent person is something we fear far more than letting a guilty person get away.  I extend to Cody Lee Williams my apology for this error and we will seek to make things right for him.  Detective Hawkins received disciplinary action for his lack of following proper investigative procedures and the supervisors who failed to properly review his work have also been held accountable.  This incident is an anomaly for the CCSO and is certainly not representative of the excellent work done by the men and women of this agency day in and day out.” In another document pertaining to Hawkins, Beseler wrote 'As a result of your incompetence, an innocent man was arrested for an offense that he did not commit.' Cody Lee Williams' attorney, Kristopher Nowicki, says his client isn't holding a grudge. 'I think you'll find that he is salt of the earth.  He's a nice kid.  He doesn't hold a grudge.  He doesn't want to be in the limelight, but he is,' Nowicki said. The Clay County Sheriff's Office has been informed that there is a lawsuit pending, so taxpayers could end up on the hook for the mistakes. Detective Hawkins has been given a ten day unpaid suspension and will be demoted from detective to the patrol division. Three other deputies were also disciplined.
  • One person has been life-flighted to UF Health Gainesville's burn unit following an incident at the Advanced Disposal plant on Normandy Blvd. near Herlong Rd. The Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department says they got the call in just before 8 a.m. Sgt. Jay Farhat with JSO says two private contractors with the company Pilot Electric were working on a panel in an electrical closet and for some reason the power had not been turned off. An electrical short set one of the workers' clothes on fire and his coworker and several other employees had to help put him out. 'When he took the brunt of the charge, apparently some of his clothing ignited. Other employees immediately put him down on the ground,' says Sgt. Farhat. He was airlifted to Gainesville in critical condition. The worker that helped put him out suffered minor injuries at the scene. JSO says they are working with OSHA to determine why the electricity had not been turned off before the workers started fixing the panel. The investigation is ongoing.
  • A source has confirmed to WOKV News that the U.S. men's national soccer team will play an exhibition game at EverBank Field on June 7. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the men will play an international friendly against Nigeria. It will be their final exhibition game before heading off to Brazil for the World Cup. Jacksonville hosted an exhibition between the U.S. and Scotland in May of 2012, which drew a crowd of over 44,000 fans to EverBank Field. The U.S. beat Scotland 5-2. WOKV will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
  • After Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for significant cuts to the military Monday we're learning what that could mean for Northeast Florida. Keeping in mind Congress still has to approve any cuts to the military, the ones with the biggest potential to impact us would be any Base Realignment and Closure that may happen and a reduction in production of littoral combat ships, which are supposed to replace old Naval frigates that are being decommissioned. The Times Union reports there will also be a ten percent cut to the Florida National Guard. In a statement, Congressman Ander Crenshaw said 'Because the Administration’s Defense Budget has not been officially introduced to Congress, it’s too early to comment on which proposals may or may not be rejected.  My commitment to our national security at home and around the globe remains unwavering and steadfast.  Working together with my colleagues on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, we will review the fine print, ask questions and take testimony at hearings, and analyze the details with particular attention focused on the proposal’s impact to our national security. As the process moves forward on Capitol Hill, the Subcommittee will write its fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill, which I can confidently predict will not be a direct reflection of Defense Secretary Hagel’s initial request.' Senator Marco Rubio's office also released a statement that says, in part “Every day, we are reminded that the world remains as dangerous as ever and that we need a modern military to protect the American people and U.S. interests abroad. It is vital that we maintain a strong U.S. military that serves as a capable deterrent, ensures freedom of the seas, and provides security for ourselves and our allies. We also need a military that is able to project force globally when crises emerge, sometimes at a moment’s notice. I am concerned that the budget announced today will put all of these goals at risk. Reducing the size of the Army to its lowest levels in seventy years does not accurately reflect the current security environment, in which the administration’s own officials have noted the threats facing our country are more diffuse than ever. Cutting key Air Force and naval capabilities just as we are trying to increase our presence in the Pacific does not make strategic sense. I am concerned that we are on a path to repeat the mistakes we’ve made during past attempts to cash in on expected peace dividends that never materialized. Mistakes that caused our allies to question America’s staying power and encouraged our enemies to test us.
  • A new poll out of the University of North Florida covers a number of questions related to Jacksonville's unfunded liability of $1.7 billion for its pension system.  Among the proposals that have been offered to reduce the city's pension obligation, one would require the JEA to increase its annual contribution to the city.  It may lead to higher electric rates.  'Over 70 percent of Jacksonville residents are opposed to that,' says assistant professor of political science Dr. Michael Binder at UNF. Despite the fact that the survey sample size was 502 people, Dr. Binder says he thinks it's safe to say most of the city is against this new pension plan because JEA says it would have to raise rates. 'I think that the public looks at that and says 'Well that makes sense. If they're going to be paying several hundred million dollars, where is that money coming from? It's got to come from us, the consumer.'' The poll also finds 60% either somewhat supporting or strongly supporting asking future public safety employees to pay more into the pension system.  The survey also showed that where 37 of participants last year felt the city's top priority should be improving jobs and the economy, this year the most support went to improving education with 27 percent saying that should be the top priority. Participants were also asked a couple of questions related to the pension plan. According to the poll, 'The public also opposes (56 percent) a small increase in property taxes dedicated to reducing the pension obligation. Three proposals to reduce the pension obligation that do have community support include requiring current (62 percent) and future employees (70 percent) to pay more into the pension system. There is also tepid support for requiring future public safety employees to work longer until they become eligible to receive pension benefits (51 percent).' UNF released a poll last week showing Mayor Alvin Brown's approval numbers as well as the hypothetical results of a mayoral race between Mayor Brown and several other potential candidates for the GOP. Data showed that though the Mayor's approval ratings are down from this time last year, he is still generally favored by the voting public. This week's poll dives more into some of the most important and controversial issues his administration has tackled since he took office in July 2011. For example, Dr. Binder says he thinks citizens know that something has to be done about the pension and want something done about it, but they just don't like the way the Mayor wants to do it. 'Taking stands on issues that are politically unpopular going into an election season is dangerous...so if I were the Mayor and if I were on the Mayor's team, I would be potentially concerned.' Binder says he hopes this data is not just looked at as a set of numbers, but useful information that politicians and decision-makers in the city can look at as a gauge of where the public's opinion stands. 'I think this is a great opportunity for the elected officials to look down and say 'Hey, here's what the citizenry think and maybe we should take this into consideration.' Mayor Brown's spokesman sent a statement in response to the poll, saying the language does not describe the Mayor's proposal.  Spokesman David DeCamp says Brown's proposal would not require JEA to do something in exchange for nothing. Instead, he has suggested a partnership in which JEA would make an increased contribution to the City of Jacksonville for a limited period of time, and in exchange the City would help JEA find savings and revenue opportunities to offset the increased contribution.
  • Matt Augustine

    Matt Augustine is the reporter for Jacksonville's Morning News but he wears many hats. You'll see him out even before the sun comes up as he spends his early mornings traversing Jacksonville tracking down the latest details on the day's top local stories and breaking news. Matt is also a television reporter for Action News Fox 30 WAWS and CBS 47 WTEV and can be seen between 5 and 9 a.m. on weekdays. You can also hear Matt on Saturdays from 12-1 p.m. as he co-hosts The Consumer Law Hour with Chuck and Eddie Farah. Matt is also a stringer for the NFL Network on Sirius XM and provides updates for Sirius at all Jaguar home games. He began his career at WOKV in June 2011 as an afternoon producer.

    Born in Athens, Georgia, Matt's family moved to New Hampshire where Matt spent his childhood. He still retains his passion for New England culture and the Red Sox and Patriots and hopes to move back one day. After graduating high school, Matt attended Syracuse University in central New York, where he went to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and is proud to call himself a graduate and a die-hard Orangeman. He was lucky enough to spend a semester abroad living in Madrid to complement his Spanish minor and though he doesn't get many chances to use it, Matt is just about fluent in Spanish and dreams of one day returning to Spain.

    While at Syracuse, Matt was a jock, Promotions Director, Morning Show Director, sports broadcaster, and Programming Director at WJPZ-FM "Z89", a completely student-run radio station serving the greater Syracuse area. He was hired in July 2010 as a part-time dayside news reporter and sports analyst for Newsradio AM 570 and 106.9 FM WSYR. He has done everything from covering New York's midterm elections to covering a national political convention to DJing pop music to play-by-play and color commentary to running a radio station with a staff of about 120 students to interviewing musicians, actors, and even politicians like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

    When Matt is not behind the microphone or out on a story, you might find him out walking his dog Leela, catching up on sleep, playing his guitar, visiting friends at his favorite local hangout, the European St. Cafe in San Marco, finding the best eats in town, or taking in some live music.

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  • A Utah teenager has been charged as an adult in a homicide that police investigators said took place after another teen sold him cooking spices instead of marijuana. Seth Carreras, 17, of Layton, was moved into the adult population at the Davis County Jail earlier this month, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. He is being held without bail on charges of murder and assault by a prisoner. Reporters described Carreras as “smirking” during a Jan. 5 court hearing in the death of Hunter Woodson, 19, who was gunned down in his Sunset home on Nov. 21. Carreras is accused of barging into the house and shooting Woodson to death in front of his girlfriend. Woodson’s family members described Carreras’ facial expression in court as an “evil smile.”  “I feel like he had zero remorse for what he did,” Travis Woodson, Hunter Woodson’s uncle, told the Tribune. “He was proud of what he did. He was acting like he’s proud of it.” Court documents obtained by the newspaper allege that Carreras went to Woodson’s home the afternoon of the shooting after the pair messaged back and forth about a marijuana sale. They initially smoked a joint so Carreras could test the drug Woodson was selling, but the younger teen did not have cash on him, so he left.  >> Read more trending news He came back later in the day to buy 1 ½ ounces of the drug. Woodson did not have that much marijuana on hand, but told Carreras that he did.  While he sent his 17-year-old girlfriend out to collect Carreras’ cash, Woodson filled a small, pink plastic bag with paprika, salt, pepper and other spices and taped it shut, the affidavit said. When Woodson’s girlfriend delivered the fake marijuana to Carreras, he felt the bag and sensed that something was not right. As he ripped the bag open, the girl ran into the house to warn Woodson, the Tribune reported.  Carreras followed her inside and into Woodson’s bedroom, where the girl hid behind the door while Woodson took a fighting stance, the affidavit said.  The girl told police that when Carreras walked into the room with a gun, Woodson asked, “What are you going to do about it, shoot me?” Carreras did just that, firing “a lot of times” and causing Woodson to fall to the floor, the girl told investigators. He then stood over Woodson and continued shooting.  Before he fled, he rifled through Woodson’s pockets for his cash, the affidavit said.  Carreras was arrested less than 30 minutes later at his home, where officers found him trying to crawl under a car to hide, the Tribune said.  Woodson’s obituary described him as a high school senior who, “after hitting a rough patch … was getting his life turned around.” He had started taking some college courses and was looking forward to the future, his family wrote. “You could usually find Hunter with his shaggy hair and charismatic smile doing what he loved more than anything else, eating,” the obituary read.  “Hunter loved skateboarding, playing football and doing MMA,” his family wrote. “He was training for his first fight. He also loved the outdoors and spending time with family.” Police officials who searched Carreras’ home after the shooting found hundreds of pill bottles, guns, ammunition and two machetes in a shed on the property, the Tribune reported in December. They also found scales used to measure drug amounts and “marijuana shake,” or small bits of plant matter that remain after larger nuggets are bagged or used, on the floor. When investigators opened the shed door, they found a man sitting inside with a sword, the Tribune reported. He dropped the weapon and was arrested without incident. Prior to his move to the adult jail, Carreras was held in a juvenile detention facility. His pending assault charge stems from a Dec. 22 incident in which he is accused of kicking the leg of a juvenile detention staff member. 
  • A new study says that most dog owners would rather spend time with their pup than their friends. Fox News reported that a study of 2,000 dog owners conducted by smart dog collar company Link AKC says more than half prefer their pet over pals. Owners said they sometimes skip out on social events to be with their dog. >> Read more trending news  Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they spoke to their dog like they would a friend. Single dog owners were twice as likely to talk to their pet about relationship problems. Eighty percent of owners said it’s a deal breaker if their partner didn’t like their dog. The study found that six in 10 pet owners said their dog takes care of them in some way, with many saying their pet helped them get through a breakup or death of a loved one.  Sixty-two percent of the pet owners surveyed said their dogs helped get them out the house at least twice a day for a walk and more than two-thirds said their dog helps them exercise more regularly. “The physical benefits of dog ownership are often the first that come to mind, but we’ve found the emotional and mental health benefits of having a furry companion are just as impactful,” Link AKC chief marketing officer Herbie Calves told Fox News. “People consider their dogs members of their family and are looking for ways to connect and interact with them on a deeper level.” The survey supports Calves’ claim. Fifty-five percent say unconditional love and constant companionship is among the biggest benefit of dog ownership. “Dog ownership is a great responsibility but also comes with great physical, emotional and mental benefits,” Calves said.
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) used the floor of the U.S. Senate to fire directly back at President Donald Trump, comparing the commander-in-chief’s words to those of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Flake stated that Trump has used statements also used by Stalin against his enemies. >> Read more trending news  CBS News reported that Flake, in an excerpt released prior to his speech Wednesday, said, “Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. ... It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.” Flake said that Trump has used the term “enemy of the people” in describing the free press last year, CNBC reported. Flake reached out via Twitter earlier this week that he was not saying that Trump was like Stalin, clarifying the intent of his speech, saying that Stalin was a maniacal killer. 
  • Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell has been named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.  Campbell, who has been declared Mayor of Sacksonville, totaled 14.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles, and had one fumble recovery for a touchdown.  Campbell was acquired by the Jaguars in March and started all 16 games.  His 14.5 sacks set the Jaguars single-season franchise record, and it was also a career-high.  Campbell was also named a Pro Bowl starter at defensive end.  
  • Five Democratic members of Congress have said they will not attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address set for the end of the month, boycotting the speech, they say, because of an alleged racial slur over immigration by the president. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), announced Monday she will not attend the speech. Four other Democrats had previously said they will not be attending. When Trump gives the speech in front of a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30 he will see the female Democrats attending the speech, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), dressed in black to show solidarity with the “Me Too” movement which gives voice to those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. While this will be Trump’s first State of the Union address, it is not the first time he has addressed a joint session of Congress. Trump spoke before Congress last February. Check back here on Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. for live updates from the speech and reaction afterward. Here’s how to watch the speech. When is the speech: Tuesday, Jan. 30 What time: 9 p.m. ET What channel: The speech will be carried live on all the major cable and news networks. Livestream: on YouTube from the White House YouTube channel Where is it taking place: President Trump will deliver the speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Why he does it: Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution says, the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The speech was first called the Annual Message, then in the 1940s, the address became known as the “state of the union.” Since 1947, the speech has been known as the “State of the Union Address.” Firsts for State of the Union speeches From the U.S. House History, Art & Archives website: First radio broadcast of the address: President Calvin Coolidge, 1923. First television broadcast of address: President Harry Truman, 1947. First televised evening delivery of address: President Lyndon Johnson, 1965. First live webcast on Internet: President George W. Bush, 2002. First high definition television broadcast of the address came with President George W. Bush’s State of the Union message in 2004. Protests: Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), said she will give her guest ticket to the speech to a person involved in the “Me Too” movement. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other female Democrats have said they plan to wear black to the speech in solidarity with the “Me Too” movement. Who is not coming: More than 60 members of Congress boycotted Trump’s inauguration. So far, five Democrats have said that they will not attend the State of the Union address. They are: Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.) John Lewis, (D-Ga.) Earl Blumenauer, (D-Oregon) Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)    Live updates

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