Your daily look at news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about in Florida today.
Jury begins deliberating in Florida A&M hazing death trial
Jurors have begun deliberating in the trial of the three remaining defendants charged with the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major. The six jurors retired to the jury room Friday after listening to closing arguments. Defense attorneys told jurors that prosecutors never proved any individual was responsible for 26-year-old Robert Champion’s death. Attorneys for Benjamin McNamee, Aaron Golson and Darryl Cearnel also said there was no conspiracy, as prosecutors claim.
Univ. of Florida frat accused of insulting wounded war vets
The University of Florida is investigating allegations that members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity spat at a group of disabled military veterans last weekend at a resort in Panama City Beach. University of Florida President Kent Fuchs called the behavior unacceptable and promised a full investigation. He made the remarks in an email to Linda Cope, the founder of the Warrior Beach Retreat at Laketown Wharf Resort. Cope and others who say they witnessed the incidents at the Panama City resort reported concerns to Fuchs. They said they saw the fraternity members spitting at the veterans and stealing their flags. Fuchs said the school is making every effort to learn what happened and take appropriate action.
Senate wants to use expanded Medicaid premiums for education
Florida Senate leaders say they won’t back down on Medicaid expansion and maintaining hospital funding, but are willing to use money from Medicaid premiums to boost education spending. The Senate’s counter proposal Friday would use $264 million from Medicaid premiums to increase student funding to what they say would be the highest level in state history. They also want to extend the session until June 30. The regular session is scheduled to end next Friday, and the two chambers have been locked in a tense budget dispute.
Court: Acquitted Miami Lakes mayor should get old job back
A Florida appeals court has ruled that Michael Pizzi should be restored as Miami Lakes mayor after his acquittal on federal corruption charges. The 3rd District Court of Appeal issued its decision Friday. Attorneys for Miami Lakes argued that Wayne Slaton’s 2013 election after Pizzi’s arrest made him the rightful mayor, but the court disagreed. A three-judge panel of the court ruled that Pizzi should be reinstated to a term that ends in November 2016. Pizzi was arrested in August 2013 in an FBI sting involving questionable city grants but was acquitted a year later following a jury trial.
‘Freaknik’ promoters cancel Panama City Beach event
The promoters of an event billed as “Freaknik” are calling off their annual gathering at Panama City Beach because of public reaction to a sexual assault and to a house party during spring break. The News Herald of Panama City reports that Jeremy Russell of L-Block Promotions sent the Bay County Sheriff’s Office a letter Thursday canceling the party at the Palms Conference Center. Sheriff’s officials say they had been in contact with the promoter for days to reach a conclusion. Sheriff Frank McKeithen had asked the Bay County Commission for up $40,000 to cover costs of extra patrols.