Local and state briefs

Published: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 11:36 p.m.

N.C. man charged with sexual battery of child

  • A North Carolina man was charged Saturday with sexual battery of a mentally and physically handicapped child younger than 12, a Gainesville Police Department report said.
    The man, Shannon Smith of Arden, N.C., was arrested Friday on different charges of burglary and aggravated assault. He was serving time in Alachua County jail when Saturday's charges were filed by the child's father, who found a videotape of Smith performing sexual acts with the victim, the report said.
    Smith, 19, told investigators he had been living with the victim and her family in northwest Gainesville between Nov. 25 and Dec. 26. He told police he was helping to care for the victim "because she has cystic fibrosis," the report said.
    On Friday, Smith was charged with unlawfully entering an apartment in the same northwest Gainesville neighborhood. Smith took out a "concealed throwing-type knife from his coat pocket and cut the victim on his right waist," that report said.
    - Greg C. Bruno

    Police: Man molested drink vending machine

  • An Interlachen man trying to pry open a drink vending machine with a tire iron was arrested late Friday night after he attacked the police officer who confronted him, according to an arrest report.
    Thomas Ryan, 36, was spotted trying to open the vending machine in the laundry room at Arlington Square apartments, located at 321 SE 3rd St., around 10:50 p.m., the report stated.
    Gainesville Police K-9 Officer Rob Concannon ordered him to stop, but Ryan advanced toward Concannon with the tire iron raised, the report stated.
    Concannon's dog, Zombie, attacked Ryan, and Ryan then was arrested.
    Ryan was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, burglary, molesting a vending machine and possession of burglary tools, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia after two crack pipes were found in his pants pocket.
    - Ashley Rowland

    DCF chief has hired new administrator

  • TALLAHASSEE - Department of Children & Families chief Jerry Regier said he has hired one of his former employees in Oklahoma's child welfare agency to run the department's Central Florida district.
    Effective Monday, David Dennis will replace outgoing District 7 administrator Robert Morin, who was ousted along with seven other officials last month in Regier's first shake-up of the troubled agency.
    "I know the quality of David's work and the concern that he shares with all of us for helping others," Regier said in a statement released late Friday.
    Department officials did not immediately return a call Saturday for additional comment.
    Dennis had been Regier's deputy in the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs until last January. He is currently assistant executive director of the Devereux Florida Treatment Network, which provides counseling services to children and families.
    Regier became secretary of Florida's child welfare agency last August as it came under fire for a string of cases of children who were reported missing or abused while under state supervision. Gov. Jeb Bush had asked for the resignations of the agency's top managers after his election to a second term.
    Dennis' district, which comprises Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Brevard counties, has more than 5,000 children under its watch, officials said. He will also oversee the implementation of the department's community based care program.
    "I am privileged to be able to serve Florida's children and adults," Dennis said. "I have found that helping communities improve the lives of others is contagious."
    Dennis will have to quickly assess the district's problems while reversing declining morale among caseworkers, said child advocate Jack Levine, president of Voices for Florida's Children
    "We don't have the luxury in a state with the crushing needs of Florida for a whole lot of orientation or on-the-job training," said Levine.
    - The Associated Press

    Trade to resume from Tampa Bay to Cuba

  • PORT MANATEE - Trade between the Tampa Bay area and communist Cuba was slated to resume after 40 years with a shipment of animal feed Saturday night bound for the southern Cuban port of Cienfuegos.
    The shipment of 3,150 metric tons of dicalcium phosphate will take less than three days aboard the 330-foot vessel Frigga.
    The supplement comes from the White Springs' plant of PCS Phosphate, a subsidiary of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.
    PCS was one of nearly 300 American companies that exhibited products at the first U.S. food and agribusiness exhibition in Havana in September. It has had previous sales to Cuba, shipping from other U.S. ports.
    The phosphate company, whose U.S. headquarters are in Northbrook, Ill., did not disclose the value of the Cuban shipment.
    American food sales to the Caribbean island must be paid for with cash. They are permitted under a special exemption passed in 2000 to the U.S. trade embargo, which began in 1960. Other shipments have passed through Florida, using ports in Miami and Jacksonville.
    Cuba has purchased more than $200 million in food and other agricultural products from United States business since it began taking advantage of the new law.
    Embargo supporters have fought any changes in the cash-only food sales. They argue that Cuba has a $11 billion trade debt with other nations and can't be trusted to guarantee its loans.
    - The Associated Press
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