Around the region for Jan. 8, 2011

Published: Friday, January 7, 2011 at 7:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2011 at 10:11 p.m.


Keystone woman critical after crash

A Keystone Heights woman was hospitalized with critical injuries following a crash early Friday morning in Starke, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Mary E. Leduc, 65, was taken to Shands at the University of Florida following the accident, which occurred at 12:11 a.m. on U.S. 301 at Southeast 145th Trail, FHP stated in a release.

Leduc made a right turn from a private driveway into the outside southbound lane of U.S. 301 in a 2005 Jeep SUV, troopers said.

Meantime, Charles M. Milton, 62, of Gainesville, was driving a 2003 Peterbuilt tractor/trailer southbound behind Leduc and moved into the inside lane to pass, FHP reported.

Leduc then changed lanes directly into the path of Milton, FHP said. Milton swerved to avoid Leduc’s vehicle but was unable to, troopers said. The right front of his truck hit the left rear of her car.

Milton was not injured. Charges are pending.

— Cindy Swirko


States approves more federal school grants

TALLAHASSEE — The state has approved 13 more county school districts for shares of Florida’s $700 million federal Race to the Top stimulus grant.

That brings the total to 24 districts and $65 million. Another 40 districts and three laboratory schools are eligible.

The districts approved Friday by the Department of Education are Charlotte, Citrus, Columbia, Jefferson, Lake, Leon, Madison, Monroe, Okaloosa, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia.

Half of the grant is earmarked for districts and lab schools, but five of Florida’s 67 districts are not qualified for that funding.

Districts can draw funds from their shares on a quarterly basis over the next four years.

— The Associated Press

Florida hands out $4M in fines to two HMOs

TALLAHASSEE — The state has fined two HMOs a total of nearly $4 million after a long-running dispute about whether they improperly denied or reduced speech-therapy services for children in Florida’s Medicaid program.

According to letters sent out on Dec. 21, the Agency for Health Care Administration imposed fines of $2.7 million on Amerigroup Community Care and $1.3 million on UnitedHealthcare of Florida.

The agency determined that Amerigroup inappropriately denied or reduced services to 531 children. The agency targeted United for 522 violations.

United issued a statement Friday saying it would appeal the fine. An e-mail seeking comment from an Amerigroup spokeswoman wasn’t immediately answered.

— The Associated Press

New slogan for Charlie Crist: ‘For the people'

ORLANDO — Former Gov. Charlie Crist is joining the high-profile Morgan & Morgan law firm.

The marriage of “the people’s governor” with the law firm that claims in TV commercials to be “for the people” was anticipated. The firm is run by John Morgan, a longtime Crist political supporter.

Crist, who was a lawyer before he entered politics, says he plans to work mostly in his hometown of St. Petersburg. He said he also hopes to become a guest lecturer at the Stetson University College of Law.

— The Associated Press

Murder suspect wants to represent himself

NAPLES — A man accused of killing his family wants to represent himself during his first-degree murder trial.

Collier County Circuit Judge Frank Baker on Friday told 34-year-old Mesac Damas he will consider the request after he undergoes a third mental evaluation. Two previous mental evaluations have offered conflicting evidence regarding Damas’ competency to stand trial. The judge said the third psychologist’s report will act as a “tie breaker.”

Damas is accused of cutting the throats of 32 year-old Guerline Dieu Damas and their five young children in their Naples town house in September 2009.

— The Associated Press

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