Local and state briefs

Published: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 12:45 a.m.

Man's death by burning an accident, GPD says

  • A middle-age man found dead Friday night near the Covered Bridge Apartments, 1810 NW 23rd Blvd., apparently burned to death, a Gainesville police spokesman said.
    An autopsy of the body confirmed that the death was accidental, according to Cpl. Keith Kameg. There were no signs of trauma.
    Kameg said the man had been living in a tent in a nearby wooded area set between a group of apartments and the back of several stores in the 2600 block of NW 13th Street. The fire was reported just after 9 p.m. by a passer-by.
    "Due to the condition of the body, we will have to do an identification from fingerprints," Kameg said Saturday. He expected that identification to be made and the man's next of kin notified by Monday.
    - Diane Chun

    Sleet, freezing rains not expected in area

  • Good news for weekend motorists. While rain and near-freezing temperatures are expected to move into the region this evening, meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville say the mercury should remain high enough in the Gainesville area to fend off any frozen precipitation threats.
    Sleet and freezing rains have blanketed North Central Florida roads in recent years, according to some local reports, but this weekend at least, tow trucks can stand down. On Monday, cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-30s should give way to sun on Tuesday, with highs in the upper 50s, lows in the lower 30s. Wednesday will be mostly clear with highs in the upper 50s.
    - Greg C. Bruno

    Panel drops complaint against former judge

  • TALLAHASSEE - A state discipline panel has dropped a complaint against former Circuit Judge Joyce Julian, who was found drunk and half naked on a hotel floor two years ago.
    The Judicial Qualifications Commission dismissed the charge "without prejudice," which means it could be refiled.
    But the panel, which made the decision Tuesday, loses its jurisdiction over judges once they leave the bench. Julian, 45, was not re-elected to the Broward Circuit Court in November.
    She was arrested Dec. 1, 2001, after police found her lying in a public area of the hotel wearing only a shirt. She was attending a judicial conference at the posh Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Northeast Florida.
    Julian is still a licensed attorney and The Florida Bar could proceed against her. Julian's attorney, Michael Dutko, said Friday that he knows of no further action pending against her.
    - The Associated Press

    Family members admit laundering drug money

  • PANAMA CITY - A man and his daughter have pleaded guilty to helping members of a billion-dollar cocaine operation in Miami launder drug profits.
    Francisco Castillo, 68, and Nuria Castillo, 37, will be sentenced in April and could face 25 years in prison and $500,000 fines.
    The Castillos laundered drug money for an operation called "The Company" through cattle ranches in Gadsden and Jackson counties, federal prosecutors said.
    Prosecutors say alleged drug kingpin Sal Magulta ran The Company. Magulta and his friend Willie Falcon are accused of heading up a $2 billion drug empire in the 1980s and 1990s. Magulta was convicted last year of laundering as much as $70 million.
    The Company distributed 121,000 pounds of cocaine in the Miami area and made $500 million in profits in eight months in 1990, according to court documents.
    The Castillos were two of 10 people, including Miguel Vega and his sons, indicted in federal court in Panama City on Aug. 21. As part of Thursday's plea, the Castillos agreed to testify against their co-defendants. Prosecutors recommended leniency in exchange for the Castillos' cooperation.
    According to court records, Francisco Castillo helped Vega launder $500,000 between 1991 and 1999 to a Nelaz Ranch account. Nuria Castillo deposited $20,750 in checks to the same account from 1991 to 1995. Although the Castillos insist they did not know the money was drug money, prosecutors say they knew they were committing a crime.
    - The Associated Press

    Change in command at MacDill takes place

  • MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE - MacDill Air Force base has a new commander.
    Brig. Gen. Wayne Hodges turned over command of the base Friday to Col. David Synder, ending a 17-month charge that spanned the country's renewed fight against terrorism.
    "The bottom line is you should all be extremely proud of what you have accomplished and know that I am proud of each and every one of you," Hodges told his troops. "But what is much more important, you have made our nation proud."
    Hodges is transferring to the Pentagon, where he will help oversee U.S. airlifts, air refueling, training and special operations worldwide. He has been nominated to become a major general, but that has to be approved by the Senate.
    Hodges assumed command of the base six weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    MacDill, home to headquarters for Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, sent its KC-135 Stratotankers overseas to refuel the first Air Force bomber strike missions against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
    The base also has been noted for its performance during Operation Noble Eagle after the terrorist attacks, refueling fighters patrolling various U.S. cities around the clock.
    While that was happening, the base runway was undergoing its first major renovation since it was built in the 1940s, shutting down portions for extended periods.
    The Coalition Village was constructed on the base for foreign troops serving at U.S. Central Command, which oversaw military operations in Afghanistan and is preparing for possible war with Iraq.
    Synder, whose last assignment was at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, said he felt honored to command an organization with a "worldwide reputation of excellence."
    - The Associated Press
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