Around the Region

Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 11:40 p.m.

Police investigate armed sexual battery

Police were investigating an armed sexual battery that occurred in southeast Gainesville early Friday.

A man held a woman at gunpoint and forced her to perform a sex act, said Lt. David Rowe. The incident occurred at about 2 a.m. in a field near a church at 908 SE Williston Road.

The woman told officers she was in the area when a man grabbed her, made her disrobe and perform a sex act, according to police. During the incident, he threatened to kill her and held a gun to her head.

Police did not immediately have additional details about the crime or the suspect.

Rowe said officers have not recently received any other reports of similar attacks.

- Lise Fisher

Meeting to be held on I-75 beautification plan

A public meeting will be held Tuesday on a beautification plan for the Interstate 75 corridor.

The Florida Department of Transportation is developing a plan to beautify the 145-mile stretch of the interstate running from the Georgia border to the start of Florida's Turnpike.

The department's consultant on the project will present the scope of work and seek public input.

The presentation starts at 7 p.m. in the department's complex at 5301 NE 39th Ave. in Gainesville. For more information, contact Kim Giles at 1-800-488-1255.

- Nathan Crabbe

Outdoor Alachua farm concert canceled

Today's outdoor concert in Alachua featuring Barry Sides, Michael Cripe and others has been canceled because of inclement weather.

The performance, which was scheduled as part of the monthly Farm to Family Concert series held on a farm at 26034 NW 157th St., Alachua, will be rescheduled.

For more information, call 386-462-5479 or see

- Bill Dean

18-year-old held on bond in sexual assault

BOCA RATON - An 18-year-old man arrested along with five other teenagers in a New Year's Day sexual assault on two young girls was ordered held Friday on $100,000 bond.

William Long Jr. of Boca Raton was arrested Thursday and booked into the jail on sexual battery charges, said Paul Miller, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

The younger boys - ages 13 to 17 - were arrested over the past few weeks and have since been released from custody, Miller said.

"All six of the boys charged committed some sexual act on at least one of the girls,'' he said.

A homeowner called authorities around midnight Jan. 1 after hearing moaning coming from a nearby canal, Miller said. Deputies found the two girls - ages 13 and 14 - practically unconscious on the canal bank. Miller said all involved, including the girls, had been drinking heavily.

The Associated Press is not naming the other suspects because they are being charged as juveniles. A telephone message left Friday at Long's home was not immediately returned. Long's attorney, Glenn Mitchell, said his client would plead not guilty.

- The Associated Press

Officer injured during exchange with burglars

DAYTONA BEACH - Daytona Beach Police say a part-time officer was shot during a confrontation with armed burglars at his home.

Police Chief Michael Chitwood said 28-year-old Jermaine Jones is recovering from surgery after suffering a stomach wound in Thursday's shooting.

Chitwood said Jones and his wife arrived at their Orange County home and saw three burglars exiting.

After Jones identified himself as a police officer, police say the burglars and the officer exchanged about eight shots outside the home.

One 17-year-old burglar was killed in the shooting. A 16-year-old burglar was injured and hospitalized. Deputies are searching for the third alleged burglar.

- The Associated Press

Reward hits $14,000 for bald eagle shooter

BRADENTON - Reward donations have hit $14,000 for information that helps catch the person who shot an American bald eagle in Manatee County.

Sarasota-area attorney Larry Byrd said about $12,000 in pledges had been received by Thursday.

That's being added to a $1,000 reward put up by the federal government and $1,000 from Byrd himself.

The female eagle was found Sunday by an Audubon Society member. It was sitting in its nest with two eggs. After their mother was shot, the baby eagles incubating in the eggs also died. The case is being investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eagles are protected by law, though they have been removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The shooter could face three federal charges of killing an eagle.

- The Associated Press

State groups want ban on voting law to stay

ATLANTA - Tens of thousands of Floridians will be barred from voting in the 2008 national election if a state voter registration law is allowed to go back into effect, lawyers for minority groups said Friday.

In a hearing before a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, lawyers for the Florida NAACP and other groups asked that a temporary injunction against the 2005 law stay in place.

The law requires that information on voter applications match driver's license or Social Security card databases. Florida officials - still haunted by the election of 2000 - say the law is a centerpiece of their efforts to prevent fraud and restore public confidence in the electoral process.

But the law created a system in which a simple mistake on a voter registration application can knock would-be voters out of an election, even if they present a valid driver's license or passport.

"If the injunction is not upheld and if the law is allowed to take effect, tens of thousands of Florida residents will be denied their right to vote because of a typo,'' said Justin Levitt, the New York-based lawyer arguing on behalf of the Florida NAACP and its co-plaintiffs.

- The Associated Press

4 areas receive grants for safety services

NAPLES - Two cities and two counties in Florida are getting nearly $600,000 in federal grant money for fire departments and emergency medical service providers.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the grants are meant to improve response capabilities and help protect the public's health and safety with respect to fire and other hazards.

The grants are applied toward fire and health training and first responder programs, and the purchase of equipment and response vehicles.

A total of $592,010 will be handed to the city of Macclenny for vehicle auisition; to Volusia County Fire Services for operations and safety; to Collier County emergency management for operations and safety; and to the city of Malabar's fire department for operations and safety.

- The Associated Press

2 men sent to prison for harassing manatee

FORT LAUDERDALE - Two men who harassed a manatee in a canal, videotaped the encounter and posted it on a Web site were sentenced to prison Friday, after pleading guilty to violating the federal Endangered Species Act.

Charles V. Podesta Jr., 20, will spend 30 days in federal prison and a year of supervised release, according to court documents. Karl F. Kuhn II, 19, was sentenced to 15 days in prison and a year of probation after his release.

Both Podesta and Kuhn have also been ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, and Podesta must post a public apology on his MySpace page. A video posted on a MySpace page showed Podesta and Kuhn, both of Hollywood, harassing a manatee, authorities said. That is an Endangered Species Act violation.

- The Associated Press

Trucks to be barred from driving in left lane

MIAMI - Truck drivers who use a busy 40-mile stretch of Florida's Turnpike will be barred from using the left lane starting next month.

After Feb. 1, drivers of big rigs on the Turnpike between the Golden Glades interchange in Miami and the Lantana toll plaza could get a ticket if they use the left lane.

Turnpike officials say the move will promote safety and ease congestion by keeping slower-moving trucks in the right two lanes. But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says it will create more congestion and cause more vehicles to tailgate and pass in an unsafe manner.

Officials say truck drivers will be given a 30-day warning period before troopers start writing tickets.

- The Associated Press

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