Around the Region for Feb. 2, 2012.


Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.

POLICE BEAT

FHP: Man killed after walking into traffic

A Levy County man died after he stepped out in front of a car being driven by an Ocala woman late Tuesday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Thomas Charles Morris, 29, of Morriston, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 10:19 p.m. accident on U.S. 41 about a mile north of the Marion County line.

Troopers said the car that hit Morris was a 2007 Pontiac G6 being driven by Beth Anne Dibiasio, 48.

Dibiasio was headed north on U.S. 41 behind another vehicle that swerved to the left to avoid hitting Morris, according to the FHP. Dibiasio also swerved to the left, but Morris was near the center of the northbound lane when the right front of the Pontiac hit him.

— Karen Voyles

Security video leads to arrest in theft of rifle

A Williston homeowner got his loaded SKS rifle back after deputies identified a theft suspect from a home security camera video.

The theft happened Monday, according to the Levy County Sheriff’s Office. The homeowner showed deputies where an intruder got into the home through a window. The video showed the intruder leaving with the rifle covered by a blanket, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect was identified after the video was reviewed by School Resource Officer Sgt. Max Long and Deputy Scott Stancil.

A 17-year-old was arrested at his home Tuesday, deputies said, and the rifle was seized and returned to the homeowner. In a news release about the incident, the Sheriff’s Office noted that the teen is a three-time convicted felon with a history of burglary and theft arrests.

— Karen Voyles

COMMUNITY

Two Gainesville lawyers suspended by high court

Two Gainesville lawyers have been suspended by the Florida Supreme Court.

In a news release, The Florida Bar said Russell Flynn Crump, whose office is at 4404 NW 36th Ave., was suspended until further order. The suspension was handed down after Crump pleaded no contest in September to child abuse and failed to notify The Bar as required when the felony charges were filed against him.

Lawyer William Bedord Watson III, whose office is at 4131 NW 28th Lane, was suspended for three years — retroactive to Oct. 1, 2009. In the news release, The Bar noted that Watson “deliberately and knowingly engaged in misconduct involving client funds. He intentionally disbursed thousands of dollars without their knowledge or consent.”

According to The Bar, case files on lawyers are available to the public on the organization’s website at www.floridabar.org.

— Karen Voyles

STATE

South Florida man adopts girlfriend in legal battle

WEST PALM BEACH — A wealthy Florida polo club founder has adopted his adult girlfriend as part of a legal battle stemming from a fatal 2010 car crash.

Court records show International Polo Club Palm Beach founder John Goodman legally adopted 42-year-old Heather Laruso Hutchins. Hutchins said the couple has been dating since 2009.

Attorneys for the family of a man killed in the car crash told the Palm Beach Post the adoption is an attempt by Goodman to shield assets in a trust from potential lawsuit damages. Goodman’s lawyer says it’s aimed at ensuring the future stability of his assets.

Goodman also faces criminal DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and other charges in the crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson. Goodman has pleaded not guilty. The criminal trial is March 6.

— The Associated Press

‘Inspirational messages’ in schools bill approved

TALLAHASSEE — The Senate has approved a bill promoting student-initiated prayer and other “inspirational messages” at public school assemblies.

The bill (SB 98) was passed 31-8 on Wednesday with some Democrats joining Republicans to support the measure.

Sen. Gary Siplin sponsored the bill. The Orlando Democrat says it keeps students and not administrators in charge of whether and how to deliver messages of inspiration.

Such messages could include student-initiated and student-led prayer.

Other Democratic senators say the bill may be unconstitutional and will almost certainly be challenged in court. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have banned state-sponsored prayer in public schools.

A House version of the bill is stalled in committee.

— The Associated Press

Huge tax-cut proposal clears Fla. House panel

TALLAHASSEE — A ballot proposal that would cut local property taxes by about $570 million annually and possibly much more has cleared its first committee hurdle in the Florida Legislature.

But the sponsor acknowledged he’ll need to make changes to keep it alive after the 14-8 vote Wednesday.

Several members of the Finance and Taxation Committee voted to keep it alive although they had serious reservations about the proposed state constitutional amendment (HJR 1289).

The amendment would cut city and county but not school property taxes through a “super exemption” for primary homeowners.

The measure also would give the Legislature the power to cut taxes by more than the $570 million estimate by totally exempting primary homeowners from non-school property taxes.

In addition, the panel approved bills cutting local business taxes.

— The Associated Press

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