Sober home report calls for more regulation, stricter enforcement

The Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force overseen by State Attorney Dave Aronberg has submitted its final report to the Legislature.

As The Post reported on Dec. 20, the report calls for more oversight of sober homes, licensing of so-called “marketers” and enforcement measures to help police.

“Our primary goal is to protect the vulnerable patients who have been abused by unscrupulous actors in the industry,” Aronberg said. “Right now, there is no oversight of recovery residences, and very little oversight of the providers.  Rogue operators are able to thrive in the current environment.”

The report, a six-month effort, can be found on the state attorney’s web site under the sober homes task force link. 

The Legislature gave Aronberg $275,000 for the three-pronged effort, which included a law enforcement arm that has made 11 arrests focused on patient brokering, in which treatment centers pay sober homes for providing a steady stream of patients.

Sober homes, which have proliferated under a nationwide heroin epidemic, are supposed to be safe places where recovering addicts support one another while learning to remain sober. Most go to treatment centers for medical services where they are tested to make sure they are still sober.

Fraud has undermined the industry in Palm Beach County and elsewhere as insurance companies are soaked for huge charges for largely unnecessary drug tests.

The task force continues, with its next meeting at 1 p.m. Monday at the West Palm Beach Police Department on Clematis Street.

Two Florida prisons on lockdown

By Pat Beall

Violent incidents involving multiple inmate dorms this morning triggered lockdowns at two Florida prisons, Gulf Correctional Institutional Annex and Mayo Correctional Institutional.

The disturbances come after widespread inmate violence at Holmes Correctional earlier this week, and amid a nationwide call for prison inmates to strike Friday, the 45th anniversary of the inmate uprising at New York’s Attica prison.

Image courtesy of David Dominici @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Dominici @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday night, several hundred inmates at Holmes were involved in what the Florida Department of Corrections described as a “disturbance.” One inmate was injured. Property damage is being assessed. That prison is also on lockdown.

One minor injury to an inmate is reported in today’s flareups at Gulf and Mayo prisons.

“Across the state, there have been a few minor pockets of inmates refusing to work,” said Florida Department of Corrections spokesman Alberto C. Moscoso. “However, these issues were quickly resolved and those prisons not on lockdown are operating normally.”

Mayo, Gulf and Holmes prisons are all in the Florida Panhandle.

How Florida treats mentally ill: Like 3rd World country

For the head of the county branch of a national mental illness support group, Florida’s approach to treating the mentally ill is shocking.

“I’m from the north,” Marsha Martino told about 60 people gathered Tuesday for a panel discussion on the mental health epidemic in Palm Beach County. “I have never lived in a place so devoid of services.”

“This is like a Third World Country.”

Martino lived in Maine and New Jersey before moving to Palm Beach County nine years ago. She has been executive director of the county’s National Alliance on Mental Illness branch since August.

Panelists at Leadership Palm Beach County meeting Tuesday March 29, 2016, are from left: NAMI worker Peter Davey, NAMI-Palm Beach County Director Marsha Martino, Circuit Judge Joseph Marx and PBSO Chief Deputy Mike Gauger.
Panelists at Leadership Palm Beach County meeting Tuesday March 29, 2016, are from left: NAMI worker Peter Davey, NAMI-Palm Beach County Director Marsha Martino, Circuit Judge Joseph Marx and PBSO Chief Deputy Mike Gauger.

She spoke to a Leadership Palm Beach County class of about 60 at The Palm Beach Post on a panel with Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mike Gauger, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx and Peter Davey, a young man who has battled mental illness.

The system here makes it hard on the mentally ill, Martino said.

Released from treatment, a mentally ill person likely must wait six weeks for treatment. For some, the act of remembering an appointment six weeks away is an “insurmountable barrier,” she said.

In Maine, she said, a patient would be seen by a team of mental health professionals the next day.

Marx, who presides at first-appearance court, said he sees tragedy daily. When mentally ill individuals are arrested, they lose their job, which means they can’t pay for housing, which means they lose their daily shower and shave, which means they lose the chance to get a job, Marx said.

“They have nowhere to sleep. They’re sleeping in your neighborhood,” he said.

One repeat offender, arrested for having an open container, begged the judge to send him back to jail. “I’ve hit bottom,” the man told Marx.

The judge sought a bed for the man. Nobody had one. Finally, he found a place willing to provide a bed for free. He released the man, ordering him to appear in court two months later.

He did, the judge said. And he was good.

“Judge, you saved my life,” the man told Marx.

Without prompting, the man came back again 30 days later to show the judge he was still clean, still working.

“Nine out of 10 do not come back,” Marx said. “But isn’t it worth the effort?”

But such efforts don’t soothe the populace, Marx said. He hears: “Judge aren’t you getting soft on crime?”

“No,” he says. “I’m getting smart on crime.”

PBSO Chief Deputy Mike Gauger discusses mental illness as Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx listens at a Leadership Palm Beach County panel discussion on Tuesday March 29, 2016, at The Palm Beach Post.
PBSO Chief Deputy Mike Gauger discusses mental illness as Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx listens at a Leadership Palm Beach County panel discussion on Tuesday March 29, 2016, at The Palm Beach Post.

Parental denial is one of the biggest problems, Gauger said. He pointed to the Sandy Hook killer, Adam Lanza, to illustrate.

“Many families are absolutely in denial when it comes to substance abuse or mental health issues,” the No. 2 official to Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. “That’s what Adam Lanza did. He locked himself in the room and to entertain him, his mother took shooting and to buy weapons.”

Lanza killed 20 children and six adults before killing himself in December 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.

Awareness is key, the panelists agreed. As is ending the stigma.

Paraphrasing the words of Mother Teresa, panelist Davey said, even when they act badly “love them anyways.”

Corey Jones shooting: Rally for Transparency

Update

Organizer asks crowd to be patient for three more minutes and introduces Pastor Tommy Brown.

Rally ends with hand-holding and prayer.

Update

Corey Jones’ grandfather, Bishop Sylvester Banks Sr., is the family’s first speaker. He’s the bishop of Bible Church of God in Boynton Beach.

Update

Crowd breaks into chanting as family of Corey Jones prepares to address the crowd.

Update

Corey Jones Rally 2

Dave Aronberg address crowd at Rally for Transparency for Corey Jones

State Attorney Dave Aronberg addresses crowd. Flanked by his three chief assistants, he’s reading the press release he sent out a half-hour ago. Text is below.

He broke from the script briefly to describe his desire to deliver justice. He took no questions.

 

Update

LIVE on : State Attorney Dave Aronberg speaking publicly for first time about shooting

Introducing State Attorney Dave Aronberg, speaker asks crowd to videotape Aronberg’s speech. Also requests they be respectable. And judge whether he does what he says when he runs next year. “We need to hold him accountable.”

Update

Speaker: “The world is watching Palm Beach County.”

“What we do, echoes in forever.”

Update

Song breaks out. A team of four drummers start to play. Think synchronized drum circle. Corey Jones was a drummer.
Those on Periscope can watch State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s speech from the Rally for Accountability outside his office on Lulu Ramadan’s Periscope account.

Update from Post reporter Lulu Ramadan:

State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak at today’s rally, organizer Rae Whitley says.

This will be the first time State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak publicly about shooting.

 

Update from Lulu Ramadan:

Retired Judge Edward Rogers to State Attorney Dave Aronberg: “We don’t trust you Mr.Aronberg.”

 

Rally Photo 1

State Attorney Dave Aronberg near speakers at the Rally for Transparency for Corey Jones. Aronberg issued press release, below…

UPDATE

Matt Benzion, Boynton Beach attorney, speaks at rally about holding officers accountable. “These were not dangerous people.”

From Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan live on the scene at @luluramadan.

 

UPDATE

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, spokesman Mike Edmondson and all of Aronberg’s chief assistants just came outside.
About 250 people are at the rally.

 

Press release issued:

State Attorney Dave Aronberg emails out a press release on the Corey Jones case as the rally is proceeding. Here it is in its entirety: 

Update from State Attorney Aronberg on Investigation into the Death of Corey Jones

The tragic death of Corey Jones is currently being investigated by three independent agencies: The State Attorney’s Office, the Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The State Attorney’s Office has been in continued communication and cooperation with the other investigating agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).  Approximately an hour after the shooting, the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department requested independent investigations and by design, this process intentionally removes the Palm Beach Gardens PD from receiving updates and information on the investigations.

Investigations such as these are confidential and it is vitally important to obtain all of the evidence during this initial phase.  These investigations can take months, depending on where the evidence leads.

Our office is committed to transparency and we have shared important information about this investigation with the family of Corey Jones and their attorneys.  We would like to provide the community with as much information as possible, but prosecutors are forbidden by state and national ethics rules to speak freely about ongoing investigations, such as this one.  We are only allowed to provide some basic uncontroverted facts, or else it may jeopardize the investigation and any potential future prosecution.

We take this investigation very seriously and as such, we cannot afford to rush, cut corners or appear to be partial.  Our responsibility is to seek justice, our loyalty is to the community, and our commitment is to the truth.

Here are some of the facts that we are ethically allowed to release:

  • Officer Raja was on duty in an unmarked van.
  • Officer Raja was not in uniform.
  • Six shots were fired from the officer’s gun and 6 casings were recovered.
  • Corey Jones was shot three times.
  • Corey Jones’s firearm (.380 caliber) was found on scene.  It was not fired.

We have spoken to Corey Jones’s family about these facts and have had ongoing discussions with community leaders to assure them of the independence, fairness and thoroughness of our investigation.

END PRESS RELEASE

UPDATE from rally:

Rally talk: So far, , Palm Beach Gardens, have all been citing “ongoing investigation.” But they can release a lot more. The big push is for records related to shooting. Speaker is reciting FL public records law.

Raul Alvarez, whose son, Aldo, was shot by a PBSO deputy in 2013. “I had to be here,” he said. From PB Post reporter Lawrence Mower’s Twitter feed.

 

UPDATE

Speaker Rae Whitley: “A broken down car is not punishable by death.”

UPDATE

Reporter Daphne Duret posts at her Twitter feed that noted local defense attorney Richard Lubin is representing Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who shot Jones on Oct. 18.

UPDATE: 12:44 p.m.

Rallygoers start with a prayer. Correction: Numbers are topping 100. Group holds hands and invokes Jesus.

Channel 5 reporting that State Attorney Dave Aronberg will adress the crowd.

Original post:

Downtown West Palm Beach streets have been closed off to accommodate the Rally for Transparency, called to put continued pressure on law enforcement officials to release information about what happened the night Corey Jones was shot and killed by a police officer in Palm Beach Gardens.

The rally is outside the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. The streets that are closed are portions of North Dixie Highway and Third Street.

Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan is tweeting live from the rally at @luluramadan.

 

 

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja

 

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31

 

Check out the new trees planted by Publix on Belvedere Road

IMG_4130 IMG_4131 IMG_4132 IMG_4134

As close-watchers of the Publix grocery store rising east of Interstate 95 on Belvedere Road undoubtedly are aware, new trees started going in last week to replace about a dozen mature mahoganies and black olives that shaded the sidewalk until workers axed them in August.

Here are some photos of the babies. The landscaping plan called for buttonwoods and crape myrtles but you tell me what these are.

Will the street be better off?

Voting made easier and other bright ideas

Betty Carlson (L) helps her husband Keith Carlson, who is visually impaired, fill out his ballot during early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Betty Carlson (L) helps her husband Keith Carlson, who is visually impaired, fill out his ballot during early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Making it easier to search the voting records of Florida politicians and making voting more accessible to all citizens are two of 22 voting-related projects awarded grants this week by the Knight Foundation.

Orlando Sentinel data analysts Charles Minshew and Andrew Gibson will get $35,000 to create Tabs on Tallahassee, a searchable database of voting records of Florida legislators. The University of Florida’s Juan Gilbert will get $35,000 to develop Accessible Voting for Everyonean electronic voting system to make voting easier for all citizens, particularly those with disabilities.

The foundation’s Knight News Challenge handed out $3.2 million for 22 projects Wednesday in Austin, Texas. Ten of the projects get more than $200,000. The rest get $35,000.

The foundation has given away $50 million to more than 130 projects over eight years.

The biggest award this year, $525,000, went to The Center for Responsive Politics and GuideStar for Inside the 990 Treasure Trove, a proposal to unearth and track campaign contributions by unregulated non-profits.

Among other winners: efforts to make state campaign finances more accessible, a way to access and fact-check political advertisements and  a way to provide less-expensive, more reliable exit polls.

Public may learn what happened to $110,000 in mystery election money

A campaign mystery documented last month by The Palm Beach Post is now the subject of a complaint to the Florida Elections Commission.

What happened to $110,000 paid by a campaign committee run by a Broward County political operative to a company run by that same political operative is the subject of a referral from the Florida Division of Elections to the elections commission, which has the power to investigate elections shenanigans.

The Post linked the money to the Kimberly Mitchell campaign for West Palm Beach mayor. But Amy Rose, the woman who runs the committee and whose Broward company received the money, stands to be the one answering questions about the where the money went — if the commission staff finds legal sufficiency to proceed with an investigation.

The complaint did not come from a citizen, who lacking knowledge would not have had enough information to spark a probe. Instead, the Division of Elections, part of the Florida Department of State, has referred “possible reporting violations” involving the committee, Floridians for Accountability, to the elections commission, spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice told The Post.

The Post could not get Rose on the phone, despite daily phone calls, before its story ran on May 17. The story pointed out that Rose and her company, Win on the Ground Consulting, played no visible role in Mitchell’s campaign. The campaign itself made no payments to Rose’s company for services.

Yet, several big donors with ties to Mitchell consultant Richard Pinsky made contributions to Rose’s Tallahassee-based committee, an electioneering communications organization allowed to coordinate with campaigns but not able to solicit votes for a specific candidate.

In March, the month of the election, the committee received $110,250 in contributions and paid out $110,250, all to Rose’s company. It said the money went for consulting services.

Earlier, it had gotten $52,000 from Mitchell-linked contributors and paid out $6,000 of it. However, during that period, Win on the Ground, Rose’s company, gave $14,000 of its own money to two neighborhood committees backing Mitchell.

The nine-member election commission, appointed by the governor, does not comment on investigations until, meeting in secret, it determines whether there’s probable cause for a hearing. That usually takes months. Investigations are made public whether or not probable cause is found. The decision on the first step, legal sufficiency, is not made public.