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News4Jax contributed to the reporting on this story. 


Weeks ago Medical Examiner Valerie Rao categorically denied awareness that her predecessor, Margarita Arruza, was diagnosed with early onset dementia while still in office. But a deposition obtained by Folio Weekly Magazine may prove that Rao not only knew - she knew years before Arruza retired at the end of 2010.

According to numerous sources, Arruza was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, in the latter half of 2010, but it wasn’t widely known until the publication of FWM cover story, “Truth, Justice or the Angela Corey Way,” on June 22, which reported on Corey’s alleged failure to inform defense in homicide cases in which Arruza autopsied the alleged victims. By law, prosecutors are required to inform defense of any exculpatory evidence, such as the incapacity of a potential witness.

Last month, we reported that Rao became extremely agitated when we questioned her about the reasons for Arruza’s retirement.

Asked if she knew Arruza was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Rao said, “I am totally unaware of that.” Asked if she had noticed anything out of the ordinary with Arruza’s behavior in the months before her retirement, which was effective on December 31, 2010, Dr. Rao said she had noticed “no atypical behavior.”

FWM has obtained a 2013 deposition from a homicide case that may contradict Rao’s statements.

The following is an exchange between Rao and an assistant public defender during the deposition in the case of Florida v. John Collins Jr.:

Public Defender: How long was Dr. Aruso [sic] sick before she left?

Dr. Rao: I would say about – she started to decline in about early 2009 or maybe even late 2008.

Public Defender: And why would you say that?

Dr. Rao: Because there were some observations that the employees made along the way.

Public …   More

Corrine Brown Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Charges

Earlier today U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown pleaded not guilty to 24 federal counts of conspiracy and fraud. Brown’s chief of staff, Elias Simmons, was also named in the indictment.

The conspiracy charge alleges Brown and Simmons donated and solicited donations to a fraudulent, Virginia-based charity called One Door for Education. According to the indictment, Brown, Simmons and the charity’s president Carla Wiley used a vast majority of the donated funds for personal expenses. The charity, which never received status as a non-profit organization, despite claims made by Brown, is alleged to have donated only $1,200 to those in educational need, despite raising over $800,000.

Additional charges included theft of government funds, concealing facts on financial disclosure forms, scheming to conceal facts, obstruction of due administration of internal revenue laws, three counts of filing false tax returns and 16 counts of wire and mail fraud.

If convicted on all charges, Brown faces up to 357 years in prison and fines of up to $4.8 million. Simmons could be sentenced to 355 years and fined up to $4.75 million.

The indictment claims Brown used money from the charity to fund a golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass, a luxury box seat for a Beyonce concert in D.C. and a luxury box for a football game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins. Additionally, prosecutors in the case allege Brown, Simmons and Wiley used funds to finance personal plane tickets, auto repairs and Caribbean vacations. Wiley pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in March.

Brown avoided questions about her role in the alleged conspiracy during a statement to the press after charges against her were announced. Brown spoke for about two minutes and focused on her efforts to secure funding for the Jacksonville Federal Courthouse, the lack of minority participation within the courthouse and the failure of federal authorities to investigate Omar Mateen before the …   More

You Might be a Northeast Floridian if…

Being a Northeast Floridian is a special kind of being. Whether you're a riverrat, a seadog or a landlubber, you know that Downtown is not now, nor ever was, on fire in the figurative sense (in the literal sense, however, fo sho).

True Northeast Floridians will eat a full meal outside on a 90 degree day, bring sweaters to work everyday in the summer because 72 feels freezing, and know that a House Divided is much more than a bible verse and Abraham Lincoln speech. Orange and blue can be friends with red and black or maroon and gold, really, they can! If you're local or just local-ized, you know just what we mean.

For all you newbies and wanna-be natives, we've compiled this handy dandy list of all the ways and means that you might be a Northeast Floridian, if...

1.  You can tell the difference between yellow fly, fire ant and mosquito bites

2.  You get excited when it frosts

3.  Your parking priority is shade, not proximity to the entrance

4.  You know better than to feed the seagulls

5.  You won't go anywhere without air conditioning

6.  You measure distance in minutes

7.  You’ve burnt yourself on your seatbelt buckle

8.  You carry a cooler at all times just in case (Gals: you’ve kept makeup in that cooler)

9.  You go to the flea market just for the boiled peanuts

10.  You eat fish and grits for dinner

11.  You’ve become a connoisseur of local shrimp and beer

12.  You can articulate the nuances of flavor and technique between Woody’s, Bono’s, Sonny’s, Monroe’s, Jenkin’s, Cotton’s, Mojo’s and various other local barbecue joints

13.  You’ve fallen in love with the Atlantic Ocean

14.  You’ve developed very strong feelings about Florida-Georgia Weekend … regardless of what sports you like, if any

15.  You’ve mastered ninja-level motionlessness to avoid …   More

First Case of Zika-Related Microcephaly Confirmed

The Florida Department of Health this morning confirms that the first case of Zika-related microcephaly has been diagnosed in the state.

According to the department, a woman from Haiti who contracted the virus in her home country has given birth to a baby with Zika-related microcephaly.

Though a relatively benign virus for most who contract it, Zika, which has symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes), can be devastating on fetuses born to mothers infected with the virus during pregnancy.

In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects in a fetus whose mother contracts the virus during pregnancy. The CDC notes, however, that not all women will deliver babies with birth defects.

According to the CDC, microcephaly is a disorder in which the baby's head and brain may be much smaller than expected. Microcephaly ranges from causing no obvious physical or cognitive impairments to causing extreme physical and cognitive impairments.

Individuals with severe microcephaly may never be able to function independently and, according to the CDC, may suffer from seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, motor coordination problems, difficulty swallowing, and hearing and vision impairment.

The CDC recommends that medical providers of care to pregnant women with a history of travel to Zika-affected areas consider testing the women for the virus. It also urges women who are pregnant to refrain from travelling to Zika-affected areas.

Florida Governor Rick Scott released the following statement in response to the news:

It is heartbreaking to learn that a baby has been born with Zika-related microcephaly in our state and my thoughts and prayers are with the mother and child. Following this news, I have requested the CDC to immediately host a call with Florida health care professionals to discuss the neurological impacts …   More


Florida’s First District Court of Appeal will take briefs on the “sham candidate” case brought by four Northeast Florida plaintiffs who want to open the Republican primary race for State Attorney to non-Republican voters. Plaintiffs contend that State Attorney Angela Corey colluded with divorce attorney Kenny Leigh to file as a write-in candidate in order to close the primary. Plaintiffs further allege that closing the primary gives Corey a political advantage while excluding the majority of voters in the Fourth Judicial Circuit, which they say violates federal law.

Retired Clay County Judge Richard Townsend, who Chief Judge Mark Mahon appointed to hear the case, dismissed the voter-plaintiffs’ lawsuit on June 17. Townsend wrote that the question of a candidate’s intent in joining a race was not a new issue under Florida law, and that the case has already been settled by precedent. Leigh is the fourth person to enter the race, joining former prosecutors Wes White and Melissa Nelson, and incumbent State Attorney Angela Corey.

But plaintiffs’ attorneys say that Leigh’s candidacy presents a new question for the court. In a message to Folio Weekly Magazine, attorney Betsy White, partner in one of the law firms that filed the suit, explains why the Scott case is different from the precedent Judge Townsend relied on.

“In Brinkman, there was no allegation that the write-in candidate was a total sham, and there was no federal cause of action alleged,” she wrote.

In a later message, White added, “In my opinion, Mr. Leigh has made it clear that his candidacy is a sham to support Ms. Corey's campaign, to which he has made financial contributions.”

In addition to alleging that Leigh’s candidacy is a “sham” and not real opposition under Florida’s Universal Primary Amendment (UPA), the plaintiffs — all non-Republicans — allege they are being denied …   More

Zika Virus Reaches Duval County

In an updated daily Zika virus update, the Florida Department of Health this afternoon confirmed that the first case of Zika virus has been diagnosed in Duval County. This case, as all others in the continental United States, is travel-related. No locally-acquired cases have been diagnosed.

The Department of Health also amended its Declaration of Public Health Emergency to include Duval County.

The virus has previously been found in Clay (two cases) and St. Johns (two cases) Counties. It has not yet been found in Nassau County.

Zika virus is a relatively benign sickness, often causing fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis or red eyes. It is only fatal in extremely rare circumstances.

The virus' most devastating impacts are on fetuses. Mothers who contract the virus during pregnancy are at risk of their baby developing microcephaly, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as, "a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age." Babies with microcephaly range from having no cognitive or noticeable physical defects to having obvious physical and extreme cognitive defects.

There is no cure for Zika virus. The Department of Health recommends that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Thus far 38 pregnant women in Florida have been confirmed to have contracted Zika. The counties of affected pregnant women are not being disclosed.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has applied for additional funding from Congress to fight Zika virus.

Contact Florida's Zika Virus Information Hotline at: 1-855-622-6735.   More

The Award for Most Hypocritical Response to the Pulse Massacre by a Local Goes To...

The aftermath of the tragedy that occured last weekend at Pulse Orlando has brought people together in shared grief and common cause. More than ever, people have shown love and support for the LGBTQ community and the victims of this terrible mass shooting.

This horror has also given disgusting bottom dwellers the opportunity to get up on their twisted soapboxes and spew hate, vitriol and hypocrisy out into the world as is their wont.

Locally, the most flagrant offender is Ken Adkins, a "Pastor" - or is it "Bishop"? #confused - for whom the term 'internet troll' was surely coined.

Here's a rancid sampling of his Twitter response to the largest mass shooting in U.S. history:


And another:

Funny, we thought gay (and lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer) folks were Americans...


And another:


But don't worry, guys, the good Bishop/Pastor is praying for you:

Something tells us he might not be praying for the same things you are.

Something like this, admittedly created before the shooting BUT conveniently retweeted by Adkins on June 13 after Kelly Pope (@Pope_Yes) called him out.


Send cards, congrats and encouragement on this monumental achievement to Adkins via Twitter, @PastorKenAdkins.


Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Adkins' Twitter handle as @PastorAdkins.   More

What We Know about the Pulse Nightclub Massacre

The tragic mass shooting at Pulse Orlando on June 12 left 50 dead, including the shooter, and 53 wounded. The massacre at the popular gay club in Orlando, Florida has the highest death toll of any mass shooting in United States history and is the deadliest terror attack since 9/11.

This dark day in American history has left more questions than answers.

What we know so far is that authorities have identified the gunman as 29-year-old Omar Saddiqui Mateen of Fort Pierce, the American-born son of Afghani parents. News affiliates have reported that Mateen had previously been interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014, but found not to be a threat. The New York Times reports that in 2014 authorities were investigating a link between Mateen and Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a Floridian who became a suicide bomber.

CNN reports that around 2 a.m., Mateen started shooting outside the packed club. After exchanging fire with an Orlano Police Department officer on duty at the club, Mateen fled inside with a 223-caliber AR-15 style assault rifle, a 9mm handgun and an explosive device. Inside, the Orlano Sentinel reports that two additional officeres became involved in the shootout.

Mateen retreated to a bathroom; a hostage situation developed.

"Investigators called to the scene told CNN that, hours later, the bodies remained where they had fallen, their cell phones ringing and vibrating, filling the club with the eerie sound of parents trying to reach children who would never pick up," the Tampa Bay Times reports.

At approximately 2:22 a.m., Mateen called 911 from inside the club to pledge allegiance to ISIS.

After three hours, during which those trapped inside frantically called police, loved ones and posted on social media in desperate attempts to get help or escape, law enforcement breached the building with an armored vehicle and stun grenades. Mateen was killed by officers. Thirty hostages were rescued.

According to …   More

Admiral: Donald Trump is 'Dangerous', a 'Fraud'

On a May 31 conference call retired military service personnel who cumulatively have the better part of a century of experience serving in the U.S. military lambasted presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.

Rear Admiral Gene Kendall of Fernandina Beach, a 35-year Navy veteran, called Trump a “fraud” who flagrantly uses veterans to tout his own political agenda, and makes promises he doesn’t back up. The admiral pointed out that this should be particularly important to voters in Northeast Florida, which has one of the largest populations of current and former military personnel of any region in the nation.

“Months ago he promised to donate money to veterans’ groups, he promised that he would raise money as he dodged a debate and then he began the process of obfuscating of how much was raised, where it was going, what would be the intended paid out,” Admiral Kendall said.

The admiral was referring to news that earlier today, in a press conference NPR referred to as “his most combative…yet,” Trump finally released information about the $6 million he said he raised for veterans back in January at an Iowa fundraiser, $1.9 million of which came in last week amid serious questions from the media about the funds.

“[Accounting for the funds] wasn’t something he did willingly; you can rest assured of that,” the admiral said.

Indeed, as NPR reported, after releasing the names of and totals given to all the organizations that received funds – still nearly a cool half million short of the $6 million that he promised, but who’s counting? (Answer: accountants, reporters, voters) – Trump launched into a bitter attack on the press for daring to ask him questions about the money, referring to the media as “sleazy,” “biased,” “extremely dishonest,” and “not good people.”

This temperament, Admiral Kendall …   More

Matt Shirk: Why Won't Angela Corey Prosecute Officers Who Assaulted Handcuffed Teen?

Yesterday's debate between Public Defender Matt Shirk and State Attorney Angela Corey was lively.

Both fired some shots at their challengers - Shirk memorably said he "wasn't in this for retirement" while Corey focused on her supporters of which - she says - there are many.

But perhaps the most interesting moment in the debate came at the conclusion, when Shirk asked why the Corey was refusing to prosecute the officers who allegedly slammed handcuffed juvenile Deandre Ezell into a wall headfirst in 2014. A video, which Shirk's office kindly provided the media after he dealt the blow, is below.


On January 22, 2016, Ezell filed suit against JSO officers David Stevens and T.M. Helms, as well as Sheriff Mike Williams, in federal court. The suit alleged that Ezell was arrested while visiting his sister at the Sophia Apartment Complex for "loitering and prowling, resisting an officer without violence, both misdemeanors." It says that after telling Ezell to sit down, Officer Stevens proceeded to ask him questions and when Ezell stood to answer Stevens "responded by violently smashing [Ezell's] head into a concrete wall, knocking him unconscious." It alleges that Stevens then handcuffed Ezell's arms and legs together while he was unconscious.

Subsequently, the suit claims that Ezell was arrested by Officer Helms for felony battery against a law enforcement officer, "despite the fact he never struck [Officer] Stevens."

If the foregoing is true, JSO arrested a minor for hanging around outside his sister's apartment, which he nonviolently resisted, which could be as simple as asking why they had cause to arrest him before he surrendered to police custody, then violently assaulted him while he was in their custody and handcuffed then charged him with battering a police officer but not the police officer(s) with battering him.

This does not paint the department in a favorable light.

JSO later told the Florida Times-Union that it could not …   More