5 Things to Know in Florida for Dec. 18

Your daily look at news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today.

CUBAN EXILE COMMUNITY DIVIDED OVER OBAMA CHANGES

Some Cuban exiles in Miami are outraged. Others are ecstatic that President Barack Obama has secretly arranged prisoner exchanges with Cuban leader Raul Castro as part of an effort to normalize relations. Exile Jose Basulto heads Brothers to the Rescue, a group whose planes dropped leaflets over Cuba. He’s happy that former USAID subcontractor Alan Gross is out of a Cuban prison, but dismayed that three convicted Cuban spies were being released in exchange.

DEFENSE: RELEASE FOR MOM WHO DROVE INTO OCEAN

Defense attorneys for a South Carolina mother who drove her minivan with three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach are resuming their arguments that she shouldn’t be forcibly confined for mental health treatment. Ebony Wilkerson’s lawyers on Wednesday are arguing before a Florida judge that her mental illness is in remission and she has done fine getting outpatient treatment.

FLORIDA PAROLE COMMISSION VOTES ON “HOUDINI” CASE

A man known as the prison Houdini might finally see freedom after more than 35 years – this time without an elaborate escape. Florida’s parole commission voted Wednesday to move Mark DeFriest’s potential release date from 2085 to March 2015. DeFriest was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing tools in a case his lawyer says is a family matter that got out of hand.

FIRST FLORIDA GAY DIVORCE GRANTED BY JUDGE

The first formal divorce for a gay couple in Florida has been granted by a county judge who also declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Circuit Judge Dale Cohen on Wednesday dissolved the marriage of Heather Brassner and Megan Lade. They were united in a 2002 civil union in Vermont. Cohen had ruled in August that Florida’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional and that out-of-state gay marriages should be recognized.

OFFICERS CLEARED IN KILLING OF FSU GUNMAN

A grand jury is clearing five police officers involved in the shooting of a gunman on the campus of Florida State University. Myron May was shot and killed by police in the early morning hours of Nov. 20. Before the 31-year-old was killed, May shot at students and one library employee. A Leon County grand jury on Tuesday heard from witnesses and went over physical evidence collected at Strozier Library.

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