Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Carmen Milagros Rios Sayaz, age 30, of LaBelle, passed away January 28, 2013 in Fort Myers.
She was born Nov. 4, 1982 in Fort Myers, FL, to Sixto Sayaz and Milagros Santiago.

She is survived by her husband: Josue D.Rios, children: Carmen-Kameron, Alexus, Josue Angel, Lely, Asbahi, Josue and Jaziel, father: Sixto Sayaz, mother: Milagros Santiago, brothers: Jose Juan, Gabriel, Daniely and Adrian, grandparents: Manuel and Aurora Carillo, Porfirio and Hilda Calzada and Marcelino and Dolores DeLeon.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 10:00 am at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle with Pastor Guillermo O. Camina officiating. Interment will be in Fort Denaud Cemetery, LaBelle. Visitation will be Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle, FL.

Jury Debates Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem Fate


Closing Arguments, Jury Instructions Finished - Jury Will Determine Who's Right

TAMPA, FL. -- A mostly female Tampa jury will determine if Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem and the Bubba Radio Network intentionally harmed Todd "MJ" Schnitt and wife Michelle Schnitt by comments made over the last five years on shock jock Clem's radio shows.

Update: This afternoon, about 4:30 p.m., after just a few hours deliberation, the jury determined Todd and Michelle Schnitt did not prevail in proving they were defamed by Bubba Clem or the Bubba Radio Network. 

The Schnitt's had claimed and produced witnesses for the last two weeks that Mr. Clem had harmed them professionally and personally by his words and images produced through Clem's Bubble The Love Sponge radio program beginning in 2008.

The Schnitt's closing arguments were made this morning by attorney Joseph Campbell, Jr. who was arrested last week in Tampa for driving under the influence. Witness testimony was interrupted briefly last week as the court heard arguments on a Motion For Mistrial. The Judge denied the motion.

Michelle Schnitt, a former attorney with the State Attorney's office in Tampa says her reputation was tarnished by Clems on-air comments and photos posted on a website. Todd Schnitt, also known as M.J. Kelli, claims Clem tried to hurt his radio show ratings, and comments Clem made resulted in harassment and an egging of the Schnitt's home and vehicle.

Judge James D. Arnold of Florida's 13th Judicial Circuit told jurors this morning that the determination of guilt for the charges depend on whether the statements and images produced by Clem were false and if Clem and his radio broadcasting company intended to harm the Schnitts.

The Judge previously determined that although Todd Schnitt is a "public" person as a well known radio broadcaster, his wife Michelle is only a private person, despite claims by Clem that she is well known by the public, having appeared numerous times on Schnitt's radio program. This would make if a bit easier to find guilt if the jurors find Clem's statements about Mrs. Schnitt false and harmful to her.

Judge Arnold reminded the jury that what the attorneys tell them on closing arguments this morning is not evidence, and told the jury that Plaintiff and Defendant's attorney has equal time to present their closing statement the jury.

Clem claims that he was using hyperbole, or exaggeration in calling Mrs. Schnitt a "whore" and making fun of Todd Schmitt's hair and stature. Clem also made statements as part of what he called "radio wars" alleging Schnitt had violated FCC rules on "plugola," allegedly receiving products and services illegally, and saying Schnitt may be under investigation by the government.

Clem also claimed that there was a conspiracy between the Schnitt's and State Attorney Mark Ober to go after Clem criminally ten years ago over a wild hog butchering stunt the Clem show did. The case went to trial, but Clem was not found guilty of the animal cruelty charges.

Clem claims a right to free speech under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and had a right to "fair" commenting about the Schnitts, and his audience had a right to hear his comments. Clem says his statements were exaggerations, "name calling." just part of his style of radio broadcasting.

Photo: Defendant Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem on witness stand (credit: 13th Judicial Circuit / Fox 13 Tampa Bay)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Are You One In Six Sick From Food Poisoning?

CDC Reports 48 Million In U.S. Get Sick From Food Each Year
About 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The figures are the most accurate to date due to better data and methods used. The data are published Wednesday in two articles in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The reports are the first comprehensive estimates since 1999 and are CDC's first to estimate illnesses caused solely by foods eaten in the United States.

"We've made progress in better understanding the burden of foodborne illness and unfortunately, far too many people continue to get sick from the food they eat," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D, M.P.H.

Of the total estimate of 48 million illnesses annually, CDC estimates that 9.4 million illnesses are due to 31 known foodborne pathogens. The remaining 38 million illnesses result from unspecified agents, which include known agents without enough data to make specific estimates, agents not yet recognized as causing foodborne illness, and agents not yet discovered. In both the 1999 and current estimates, unspecified agents were responsible for roughly 80 percent of estimated illnesses.

"Foodborne illnesses and deaths are preventable, and as such, are unacceptable," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "We must, and can, do better by intensifying our efforts to implement measures that are prevention-oriented and science-based. We are moving down this path as quickly as possible under current authorities but eagerly await passage of new food safety legislation that would provide us with new and long overdue tools to further modernize our food safety program."

Among the additional findings for foodborne illness due to known pathogens:
Salmonella was the leading cause of estimated hospitalizations and deaths, responsible for about 28 percent of deaths and 35 percent of hospitalizations due to known pathogens transmitted by food.
About 90 percent of estimated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths were due to seven pathogens: Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E.coli O157, Listeria andClostridium perfringens.
Nearly 60 percent of estimated illnesses, but a much smaller proportion of severe illness, was caused by norovirus.

"People expect food to nourish them, not to harm them. So we need to intensify efforts to decrease the number of illnesses and deaths due to foodborne diseases," said Christopher Braden, M.D., director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

CDC continues to encourage consumers to take an active role in preventing foodborne infection by following safe food-handling and preparation tips of separating meats and produce while preparing foods, cooking meat and poultry to the right temperatures, promptly chilling leftovers, and avoiding unpasteurized milk and cheese and raw oysters.

The full report is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/eid. To learn about how to prevent foodborne illness, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov.

Fraud Charged - Nursing Management Company Officials

Two Top Officials Charged With Medicare Fraud

TALLAHASSEE, FL.–Today Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with the assistance of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, arrested the CEO and Assistant CEO of the Council on Aging of Florida, Maxcine Darville and Joanne Carter, respectively, for using more than $2.75 million of Medicaid dollars for excessive salaries and personal expenses. 

The Attorney General’s Office investigated the two women for allegations that between January 2006 and March 2012 the two used Medicaid program payments to the Council on Aging of Florida to cover excessive salaries and personal expenses, such as mortgage payments, Internet service, utility bills, cell phone service, and personal long distance calls. 

The Council on Aging of Florida is a nursing home management company, and it is not affiliated with the Florida Council on Aging.

“We will not allow those who are entrusted with providing legitimate Medicaid services and accurately billing the program to exploit the system,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “We will continue to protect taxpayers’ dollars by investigating and prosecuting those who commit Medicaid fraud.”

Darville and Carter are each charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, a first-degree felony. If convicted, Darville and Carter each face up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Attorney General Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bubba The Love Sponge Trial Resumes

Judge Dismisses Mistrial Motion And Motion To Dismiss

TAMPA, FL. -- The Todd "MJ" Schnitt vs. Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem defamation trial continues this morning with the jury taking their seats at 10:45 a.m. Monday.

Earlier this morning, arguments continued from Friday, attorneys seeking a mistrial and to dismiss the suit. Both motions failed and the jury returned to hear the plaintiff's rest their case, after having Thursday afternoon and Friday off due to controversy surrounding the arrest of Schnitt's attorney Phil Campbell for a DUI charge Wednesday evening. Campbell spent the night in a Tampa jail.

The jury was polled by the Judge to make sure they had not heard any news about the case from outside the courtroom.

Clem's attorney brought to the stand it's first witness, Benjamin Homel, aka on the radio as Randy Michaels which he prefers to be called (photo above) a radio executive for various broadcasting companies, testifying about working with Clem and Schnitt. He noted that Clem's background was in professional wrestling with a tradition of goading opponents, and the two radio DJs would often take verbal shots at each other calling for some mediation by the radio station management.

He told the jury Bubba Clem's show become targeted to men, while MJ Kelli's show targeted women. Michaels was the CEO of ClearChannel Radio when Clem was sued by the state and lost, over the on-air wild hog butchering stunt and said the company backed Clem.

Just before the afternoon one and one-half hour lunch break Michaels told the jury he never heard Bubba Clem give a call to action to any listeners to do anything physical to Mr. or Mrs. Schnitt.

More defensive witnesses took the stand in the afternoon and again Tuesday morning.

Update: Both sides have finished with witness testimony as of Tuesday and the jury was sent home early. Next on Wednesday is making their closing arguments. The attorneys began working on jury instructions Tuesday afternoon with the Judge, recessing court at 2:20 p.m.  They will return at 8:30 a.m.Wednesday to continue working on jury instructions and then making closing arguments before the jury starts it's deliberations on a verdict.

Photo: 13th Judicial Circuit / Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Gas Prices Steady This Week In Florida

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have risen 0.6 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.41/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 8,237 gas outlets in Florida. This compares with the national average that has increased 4.5 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.31/g.

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 12.8 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 7.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 4.5 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 6.7 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

"The national average has picked up in the last week on the apparent start of refinery maintenance season," said Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Refinery production has taken a hit in the last week as companies begin looking towards the summer driving season, utilizing this time of year for maintenance and any upgrades before gasoline demand races higher for the summer season," DeHaan said.

Fraser Scholarship Congratulates Recent Grad

Natasha Willoughby Earns USF Master's Degree
CLEWISTON, FL. -- The John Walker Fraser Memorial Scholarship announces scholarship recipient, Ms. Natasha Willoughby graduated from The University of South Florida on December 15th, 2012.

Ms. Willoughby attended the Graduate Program as a Library Science candidate and has been working diligently for the last two years on her Master’s program. She is currently the Site Manager for the Immokalee Library, part of the Seminole Tribe Library System.

The scholarship was created to honor the life of John Fraser, past Director of the Clewiston Library and, at his death, was the National Library Director for the Seminole Indian Tribe.

Barbara Fraser Lundy said, "Thank you to all who participated in contributing to the John Walker Fraser Memorial Scholarship and congratulations to Ms. Natasha Willoughby."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Alcohol Related Crash Kills 81-Year Old

Alcohol Factor In Deadly Crash - Driver Charged With Manslaughter

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- According to the Florida Highway Patrol, an alcohol impaired 26-year old driver caused a crash that killed an 81-year old man in downtown Immokalee, Florida this morning about 8:55 a.m.

Victor Felix Moreno, of LaBelle traveled in a 2004 Ford Explorer east on Immokalee Drive on the eastbound lane and was approaching the intersection of North 9th Street in Immokallee and ran a stop sign. 

Joel M. Feinson, of Naples was traveling north on North 9th Street on the northbound lane and was approaching the intersection of Immokalee Drive as Moreno ran the stop sign at the intersection as Feinson's 2008 Lexus proceeded north and entered the intersection. 

Moreno's vehicle front struck Feinson's vehicle's left side on the east central portion of the intersection. The impact caused the Ford to travel in a northeasterly direction onto the north shoulder of Immokalee Drive east of the intersection where it's front struck and knocked over a "No Parking" sign with post, then continued to travel in a northeasterly direction on the north shoulder where it's front subsequently struck a standing tree. 

The Lexus came to final rest faced in a northerly direction straddling both lanes of Immokalee Drive east of the initial area of collision.

Moreno suffered only minor injuries and was charged with DUI manslaughter.

Kiwanis Plans Giant Yard Sale

Bargains To Be Had At Next Kiwanis Sale

LABELLE, FL. -- Thanks to the generous donations from the community, the Kiwanis Thrift store has an abundance of items for sale and will be sharing them with the community this Saturday. 

The Kiwanis Club of LaBelle will have a Parking Lot/Yard Sale at the Kiwanis Thrift Store on Saturday, February 2nd. The sale is from 8 am to 2 pm.

LaBelle Kiwanis Club members will be on site and the Division Kiwanis Key Club (High School Students) will be working the whole day to help raise funds for their Division Key Club. This is a great opportunity for Kiwanis members and Key Club members to work side-by-side in a Community Service Project, say the organizers.

Prices will be marked very low for the giant sale and inside the Kiwnias Thrift Store, there will be a store-wide sale on all items.

The funding goes back into our local community through High School and Adult Scholarships and in support of many agencies and groups such as Barron Library, Boy Scouts, Hendry County Schools and Athletic Programs, Summer Camp for Kids, Youth Organizations and other non-profits in Hendry county.

Roads Under Construction This Week

Major Improvement To Local Roads Underway

LABELLE, FL. -- Motorists should take caution at these locations this week in Hendry county for road projects underway including the four-lane expansion project of State Road 80 and work along State Road 29 in east Hendry.

US 27 from Palm Beach County Line to Flaghole Road: Maintenance permit project: Crews will be working on the shoulder of the roadway, reshaping and sodding areas. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No lane closures are anticipated. Motorists should expect vehicles entering and exiting the roadway and should use caution.

SR 80: From CR 833 to east of US 27: Construction project: Work expands two-miles of SR 80 to four lanes from east of County Road 833 to west of US 27. Crews are constructing ponds, building new bridges and installing drainage. Drivers should pay attention to traffic signs and barricades throughout the construction project, stay alert, and use caution in the work zone. Estimated completion is spring 2014. The contractor is C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.

SR 80/US 27: Interchange improvements: Construction project: Crews are modifying the intersection with construction of an overpass for SR 80 traffic eastbound to US 27 northbound and for US 27 traffic northbound to SR 80 westbound. The project also realigns US 27. Crews also will widen approximately 3/4 mile of SR 80 to four lanes approaching the intersection, add a traffic signal at the overpass, and install lighting at the interchange. Work currently involves placing fill dirt, installing drainage, and constructing the new overpass and roadways. Northbound traffic is shifted to the west onto new temporary lanes. Expect new traffic patterns and intermittent lane closures on US 27 and SR 80. Motorists are advised to be aware of construction vehicles entering and leaving the work zone and to use caution driving in this area. Project completion is estimated at end of 2013. The contractor is Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, Inc.

SR 80 from Birchwood Parkway to Dalton Lane: Construction project --- Work is underway to expand five miles of SR 80 to four lanes from Birchwood Parkway to Dalton Lane. Crews are clearing vegetation, constructing a drainage structure near Cedarwood Parkway and constructing a new bridge at the C-1 canal.On Monday, January 28 through Wednesday, February 6, Birchwood Parkway will be closed on the south side of SR 80 while crews reconstruct the Birchwood Parkway intersection. Motorists may use Collingswood Parkway and Cedarwood Parkway to access SR 80. Motorists are advised to be aware of construction vehicles entering and leaving the work zone and to use caution driving in this area. Motorists should expect some “fog/smoke” over the next two weeks while crews burn piles of cleared vegetation. The speed limit from Birchwood Parkway to Cedarwood Parkway is 50 miles per hour. Drivers should pay attention to traffic signs and barricades throughout the construction project, stay alert, and use caution in the work zone. Estimated completion is summer 2014. The contractor is C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.

SR 29/SR 80 Intersection: Maintenance permit project: On Thursday, January 31 from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., weather permitting crews will be testing the wells under the roadway. Motorists should expect a lane closure on SR 29 and turn lane closures on SR 80 (north and south direction). Motorists traveling in this area should plan accordingly and expect delays.

SR 29, south from Wilson Road to Collier County Line: Maintenance permit project: Crews are placing fiber in the state right of way. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No lane closures are anticipated. Motorists should expect vehicles entering and exiting the right of way and should use caution.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stevens Guilty In Grisly Murder-Arson Case

Dead Man With Bound Hands And Feet Found Inside Burning Mobile Home

LABELLE, FL. -- A 12-member Hendry county jury has determined Vernon Dwayne Stevens is guilty of the 2007 murder/arson charges that left a 60-year old man dead in a mobile home in rural Hendry County, Florida.

Stevens was charged with 1st degree murder, 1st degree arson and armed robbery. He was accompanied in the crimes by Raymond Alberto Diaz who was convicted in 2008.

The case against Stevens has dragged on for five years. The presiding Circuit Judge was Christine Greider in the three-week long trial, and Asst. State Attorney Dan Feinberg prosecuted the case for the state.

On October 17, 2007, Hendry County Deputies and members of the Montura Fire Department responded to a fire call at 236 Del Sur in Montura Estates in central Hendry county. 

While extinguishing the fire, firemen discovered the body of Epitacio Antonio Hernandez-Beltron, age 60, inside the mobile home with his feet and hands bound. 

Investigators from the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, State Fire Marshall's Office, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement then responded to the scene and initiated an investigation.

According to then Hendry County Sheriff Ronnie Lee, shortly after discovering the body of Beltron, deputies arrested two men and they were taken to the Hendry County Jail in LaBelle, Florida on Burglary charges. 

Investigators gathered sufficient evidence against these men to charge them with Murder and on November 1, 2007 Raymond Alberto Diaz, then age 43, unknown address, and Vernon Dwayne Stevens, then age 24, of 275 North Datil Street, Clewiston, were officially charged with the Murder of Beltron.

Accomplice, Ray Diaz was convicted of the murder, armed robbery and arson on March 12, 2008 and was handed down a 30 year prison sentence for the arson/robbery and a life sentence for the murder.

Stevens had an extensive criminal arrest history in Hendry County including drug and violent crime charges going back to 2001. He tied to argue that he didn't kill the victim.

Seacoast Offering Small Business Loans

SBA Loans Approved At Seacoast National Bank
LABELLE, FL. -- Seacoast National Bank has been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration as an SBA lender. As an SBA approved lender, Seacoast National Bank will participate in both the 7(a) and 504 programs. 

Most creditworthy, for-profit entities are eligible and funds can be used for a wide range of purposes including working capital, inventory, furniture and fixtures, machinery and equipment, owner-occupied real estate (including construction, renovations and refinancing), business acquisition, and debt refinancing. 

“We believe this program, along with our participation as a Capital Access Program lender, will allow us to assist the small business owners in our community to acquire the financing necessary to grow their businesses,” said Russ Holland, Chief Lending Officer, Seacoast National Bank. 

“The SBA loan program is another great addition to our full suite of loan products we offer small businesses. And, because decisions are made locally, business owners can expect a quick resolution to their operating challenges. We are a very competitive banking solution for small business.”

Small Business Administration loans offer multiple benefits to business owners including larger loan amounts, longer loan terms, and lower equity requirements. For more information about an SBA loan, or to talk with a lending officer experienced in business loan alternatives, call Joshua Harris, Specialty Finance Manager at Seacoast National Bank at 772.221.2589 or email Joshua.Harris@SeacoastNational.com

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bubba 'Love Sponge' Trial In Confused State

Jurors Sent Home Today - Judge Hears Testimony About Attorney Briefcase

TAMPA, FL. -- The defamation jury trial of Todd "MJ" Schnitt vs. Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem has taken more of a turn into the circus tent today, as plaintiff's attorney ask for a mistrial, jurors sent home early, and an afternoon hearing to delve into the circumstances of the arrest of Schnitt's attorney and his missing trial briefcase later found at opposing counsel's office.

Jurors were sent home today early, and testimony proceeded from witnesses to the events surrounding Schnitt's attorney Charles Philip Campbell's arrest Wednesday night for driving under the influence and his missing briefcase.

The judge had announced proceedings on a Motion for Mistrial and a Motion for Disqualification were to start at 2 p.m. but were delayed for an emergency hearing on another matter the Judge said. The hearing this afternoon began with another of frequent "sidebars" with microphones turned off even as jurors were not present as seven attorneys talked 'secretly' with the Judge.

All witnesses were asked to step outside, and one witness at a time would be called.

Attorney Steven Diaco had been subpoenaed for an appearance, but an objection was placed by his attorney who had advised Diaco to plead his 5th Amendment rights to not answer certain questions.

Melissa Personius, (shown above with counsel) a paralegal for Bubba Clem's lawyer Joseph Diaco's firm for five years was part of the drama Wednesday night, allegedly with Phil Campbell in a bit of drinking. She invoked her 5th Amendment right against self incrimination and chose to not answer questions about that evening.

She would not answer any questions about her cell phone which she said she did not bring to court.

She did admit she found a briefcase belonging to opposing counsel Joseph Campbell in her car and told her boss about it. She said she had possession of it except for one hour, when it was returned to her home, and she took a cab, instead of her own car, and returned it to the front desk of Campbell's office Thursday afternoon.

When called back to testify at 4:15 for a second time, she took the 5th on whether she knew if Campbell was Schnitt's attorney and said she didn't tell where she really worked (at Diaco's office) to protect herself from stalkers.

Campbell's team is trying to accuse Clem's lawyers of setting Campbell up for the Wednesday DUI arrest.

Jon Ellis, one of Schnitt's attorney takes the stand. He was drinking with Philip Campbell at Malio's in Tampa Wednesday night and talked with two females there, one named "Melissa." He later discovered Campbell's trial briefcase was missing and later discovered it was at the Diaco law firm office.

He said he didn't have any evidence of if the briefcase had been opened by anyone at the defense's law firm or how it got there. The briefcase was eventually returned to the Campbell office.

Attorney Steve Diaco testified about his cell phone which he did not bring to court and the events to get the Campbell briefcase back to the owner saying he didn't want to touch the bag so returned it to Personius' home and had her return it.

Diaco said, under oath, he didn't recall whether he had instructed anyone to call the Tampa Police Department regarding Campbell's drinking and driving Wednesday night, for which Campbell was put in jail.

Attorney Michael Trentalinge testified he was at the bar Wednesday night with Campbell and talked with Melissa Personius together with Campbell. He said she didn't mention she worked with Diaco law firm but mentioned an entirely different firm.

Sgt. Raymond Fernandez, Tampa Police Officer testified he received a call at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday from an attorney with Diaco's office with a description of Campbell and his car and later made the traffic stop on Campbell about 10 p.m.. He called the attorney back after making the arrest. He worked for a "wolf pack" unit that targets drunk driving.

Motion For Mistrial And Disqualification

At 4:30 the Judge ordered a 30 minute recess. At 5 p.m., plaintiff Schnitt's attorney argued to the court that attorney Campbell did not have a car at the bar, he lived from four to six blocks away and because of a previous DIU conviction did not wish to drive to or from the bar location.

Allegedly he was asked to "move" Personius' vehicle which led to his arrest. Personious "plead the 5th" regarding whether she went to the bar to get Campbell to drink and to be arrested driving. It was argued further that one of Diaco's attorneys called a friend at the police department to "stalk" Campbell for the DUI arrest.

Plaintiff's asked the court for permission to obtain records of the various defendant law firm's cell phones regarding the issues addressed today.

Defense, for Bubba Clem argued that the trial has not been affected as the jury doesn't know anything about the missing briefcase and DUI arrest and said there's nothing wrong with a citizen notifying the police of a possible impaired driver, and denied anyone was "set up." No one forced Campbell to drive after drinking it was argued. It was claimed that the briefcase was returned within three hours of it's discovery and never opened.

Court will resume at 9 a.m. Monday.

Photo credit: 13th Judicial Circuit / Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Clewiston DUI Arrests High Say Chief

31 Arrests Made, 60 Traffic Citations Written In Clewiston
CLEWISTON, FL. -- Clewiston Police Chief Don Gutshall reports that as has been the case for a number of weeks, "we continue to have high numbers of arrests for DUI, suspended Driver’s License, and minor drug possession. On a positive note, it has been another burglary free week."

He says the city does have a recurring problem with four-wheelers on Okeechobee Boulevard during the overnight hours saying "The noise is highly disruptive to the neighborhood, and we are concerned for the rider’s safety as well. We have not yet been able to corral them, but are working on a 'posse' plan."

A brief synopsis of the week’s police activity:

934 Commercial / Residential Security Checks
514 Complaints Investigated
31 Arrests Made
60 Traffic Citations
1 City Ordinance Violation Issued
47 Red Light Violations
78 Merchant Escorts Provided
16 Alarms Responded To
2 Traffic Accidents Investigated

Casey Anthony Convictions Reduced To Two

Court Says Casey Only Guilty Of Lying Twice Not Four Times

UPDATE: On the same day, Anthony filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Tampa, claiming $792,000 in debts, including $500,000 owed to attorney Jose Baez. 

ORLANDO, FL. -- Florida's 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated two of four convictions handed out to Casey Anthony by Orange County Circuit Court jurors in the 2011 trial that acquitted her of the murder of daughter Caylee Anthony.

A civil trial Anthony has been facing brought against her by Zenaida Gonzalez has been on hold pending this appeal of her criminal convictions.

The three-judge Court said in it's opinion published today that Casey Anthony appealed her convictions for four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer during a missing person investigation arising from statements she made to Detective Yuri Melich on July 16, 2008 during an investigation into the disappearance of her young daughter, Caylee Anthony.

Anthony argued that these convictions should be reversed because the trial court should have granted her motion to suppress statements made to law enforcement officers prior to her having been apprised of her Miranda rights and secondly, her multiple convictions violated the prohibition against double jeopardy; and thirdly section 837.055 of the Florida Statutes is unconstitutionally vague.

The Court rejected the first and third arguments, but concluded that double jeopardy principles require that two of her four misdemeanor convictions be set aside.

The opinion cites the narrative of the events where Anthony lied to officers ('Appellant' is Casey Anthony):

On the evening of July 15, 2008, law enforcement officers arrived at the residence of Appellant’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony, in response to three 9-1-1 calls placed by Cindy Anthony.  In the first two calls, Cindy Anthony requested police assistance in recovering a vehicle and money allegedly stolen by Appellant.  In the third 9-1-1 call, Cindy Anthony reported that her granddaughter, Caylee, had been missing for approximately thirty days.

Cindy Anthony testified that she made these phone calls because Appellant would not tell her where Caylee was.

When the officers arrived, they separated the family members according to their standard procedure and obtained  statements regarding the missing child.  Appellant appeared to be cooperating with the officers and provided information freely and voluntarily.  She informed the officers that she had last seen Caylee when she dropped her off at the apartment of her nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, on June 9, 2008.

Appellant informed the officers that Gonzalez lived at the Sawgrass Apartments in Orlando, but she could not remember the apartment number.

Appellant agreed to go with Deputy Acevedo to the Sawgrass Apartments to show her exactly where she had last seen her daughter.  She sat in the back of Deputy Acevedo’s vehicle with the partition open so that she could communicate with her.  After indicating to Deputy Acevedo the particular apartment where she had purportedly left Caylee, Appellant was driven back to her home where she gave law enforcement officers a written statement.

This was part of the narrative of a convoluted story Anthony told law enforcement officials which led to her arrest and convictions by an Orlando jury.

Anthony argued that double jeopardy principles preclude her from being convicted for more than a single violation of section 837.055, because her various false statements to law enforcement officers constituted a single offense.  The State takes the position that each of Appellant’s false statements constituted a separate offense and, therefore, no double jeopardy violation occurred.

The Appellate Court rejected both parties’ arguments and concluded that under  the facts of this case, Appellant can properly be convicted of two counts of providing false information to a law  enforcement officer during a missing person investigation.

All four of the false statements were made by Appellant in her interview with Detective Melich at the Anthony residence.  Two of the false statements were repeated to Detective Melich in the later interview at Universal Studios, where Anthony falsely claimed she currently worked.

Appellant gave false information to Detective Melich during two separate interviews that took place several hours apart.  The Appellate Court said when there there is a sufficient temporal break between two alleged criminal acts so as to have allowed a defendant time to pause, reflect, and form a new criminal intent, a separate criminal episode will be found to have occurred.

Appellate Court Opinion

Mistrial For Bubba "Love Sponge" Trial?

Allegations Schnitt Attorney Was "Set Up" For DUI Arrest

TAMPA, FL. -- Todd "MJ" Schnitt's attorney's made a motion in court this morning for a mistrial. Schnitt's attorney Charles Phil Campbell was arrested in downtown Tampa Wednesday night for driving under the influence.

Allegations swirled in court at 9 a.m about a briefcase belonging to Plaintiff's attorney Campbell left found in the trunk of a car of one of shock jock Bubba Clem's attorney's associates and hints Schnitt's attorney Phil Campbell was set up to be arrested on DUI charges Wednesday night after drinking with an associate of defense counsel Joseph Diaco.

Circuit Judge James D. Sloan said this morning he finds "it disturbing" that incidents have come to light regarding allegations that the attorneys in the defamation suit brought by Todd "MJ" Schnitt against shock jock Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem may have violated certain courtesy agreements made earlier in the trial.

Confusion, secret attorney conferences, someone crawling on the court floor, and loud shouting reigned for a half hour during court this morning. Allegations flew and the judge ordered attorneys to inaudible conferences before him, making it difficult for observers to know exactly what was going on in court.

Steven Diaco, brother of Bubba Clem's attorney Jospeph Diaco Jr. was involved Thursday in a subpoena for an appearance before the court and served on at 9 a.m. Friday. Steve Diaco's attorney is asking for a protective order to prevent his appearance. Judge Arnold ordered Diaco to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. today for testimony.

Joe Diaco denied any knowledge of wrong doing in the allegations before the court this morning. Judge Arnold said the issue this morning is whether any of the jury knows "anything about this" presumably referring to the news of Attorney Campbell's driving under the influence arrest this week. The jurors and several witnesses not yet dismissed by the court are not supposed to be reading or listening to reports about the trial.

The court is in recess at this moment. Presumably the Judge will inquire of jurors whether anyone has any knowledge of the Phil Campbell arrest Wednesday night.

Update:  Michelle Schnitt (photo left) took the witness stand later this morning for direct examination by plaintiff's attorney answering questions about bad experiences she had with alleged "Bubba Army" fans and other incidents whereby Bubba Clem's radio show comments had caused harm her.

Mrs. Schnitt is a former assistant attorney with the State Attorney Office and now says she takes care of her children and also does errands for her husband.

Photo At Top: Man groping on courtroom floor, presumably for an electrical cable - Bubba Clem's legal contingent in background  (photo credits: 13th Judicial Circuit/Fox 13 Tampa Bay)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Orange Hauling Semi Driver Falls Asleep - Rolls Over

Oranges Spill As Driver Falls Asleep And Semi Overturns

LABELLE, FL. -- A semi tractor-trailer hauling oranges overturned as it was traveling north on State Road 29 in Hendry County south of LaBelle. It waas approaching Sam Lane when the driver fell asleep about 10:47 p.m. Wednesday night.

Driver Terry A. Moore, 42 of Arcadia, Fl. told FHP Trooper S. Rongish he fell asleep, causing the 1999 Mack semi to travel onto the east shoulder which continued to travel north in a ditch causing the front portion to strike a culvert. 

After striking the culvert he continued to travel north striking a utility pole, then overturned coming to final rest on the east shoulder facing north on its left side.

The vehicle traveled approximately 504 feet on the shoulder prior to coming to final rest.

Moore was wearing a seal belt and suffered minor injuries and was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers. He was charged by the FHP with careless driving.

MJ Schnitt Attorney Spends Night In Drunk Tank

Phil Campbell Arrested On DUI - May Be At Bubba The Love Sponge Trial This Morning?

TAMPA, FL. -- Attorney Charles Philip Campbell, lead attorney in a defamation suit by syndicated radio show host Todd "MJ Kelli" Schnitt was arrested in downtown Tampa last night by the Tampa Police Department, booked into jail and released this morning on $500 bond.

He was released from jail at 6:18 A.M., only two hours before he's due in court to represent his client Todd Schnitt in a defamation case against shock jock Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem.

5-foot 8-inch tall Campbell was arrested at 10:08 p.m. Wednesday night at Cass and Tampa Street North.

"You can't make this stuff up," said J. Kevin Hayslett, attorney and friend of the Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem morning radio show.

Campbell, well known Tampa attorney was arrested on a DUI charge for the second time.

64-year old attorney-at-law Campbell, ironically DJ Bubba Clem's former attorney and now representing Schnitt against Clem, had a prior driving under the influence arrest July 14, 2008.

He works at the law firm Shumaker, McKendry and was recorded during the 2008 arrest with a blood alcohol level between .153 and .156. and released the next morning on $500 bond.

Bubba Clem this morning on his radio show at 6 a.m., devoted the first hour's broadcast to the lastest Campbell DUI arrest, playing parody songs, audio clips and making comments about "karma." Clem described attorney Campbell, who represented him in a previous law suit as "a real dick."

Clem joked that Campbell this morning, may be the "most sober he's ever been " in court today after sleeping off his presumed drunkenness in Tampa's Orient Road jail drunk tank.

Campbell refused to take a breathalyzer test last night and was arrested for DUI, and as J. Kevin Hayslett told Clem this morning on the radio show, will automatically spend at least "10 days in jail" for not taking the test if convicted. "You can't make this stuff up," said Hayslett about the Campbell incident.

Hayslett told Clem, that if this were Campbell's second refusal to take the blood alcohol test, he would have his license suspended and spend up to 18 months in jail. Campbell was convicted in 2008 of DUI but at that time did not refuse the test.

Clem theorized Campbell may have some trouble with the Florida Bar because of the DUI arrest charges. Florida attorneys are required to report any convictions to the Florida Bar, which may put an attorney into mandatory counseling on a second conviction.

The Schnitt vs. Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem defamation trial will continue this morning in court at 9 a.m. Due to a scheduling conflict with court rooms, the court will recess at noon and resume again tomorrow.

Update 9 a.m. Thursday: The attorneys in the Schnitt vs Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem trial met this morning with Circuit Judge James D. Arnold before jurors entered the courtroom (photo below). 

The trial will be delayed until tomorrow as attorneys asked for more time after Plaintiff's attorney Phil Campbell was just released from jail this morning at 6 a.m. The jurors are not supposed to be watching any news regarding the trial, and theoretically don't know about the attorney's arrest for DUI.

Today is plainitff Todd "MJ" Schmitt's 47th birthday.

Photos: 2008 booking photo Hillsborough Sheriff's Department - 13th Circuit Court

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Governor Wants $2,500 Teacher Raises

Florida Governor Asking Legislature For Money For Teachers

ORLANDO, FL. -- Today, joined by teachers at Ocoee Middle School in Orlando, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that he is proposing a $2,500 teacher pay raise, in addition to an increase in K-12 education funding, in his upcoming state budget proposal.

Governor Scott said, “Today, I am excited to announce that as we continue to move our state forward and create more jobs, we are doubling down on our investment in education. I can think of no better investment for our state than investing in those teachers who work on the frontline of Florida’s future every day by teaching our children. I am asking the legislature to join with me in supporting my 2013 budget request that will provide every Florida full-time public classroom teacher the ability to receive a $2,500 pay raise.

“My proposed budget will include $480 million in funding to support a $2,500 pay raise for full-time public classroom teachers in our state. This funding will support districts’ ability to provide a $2,500 teacher pay raise, plus the cost of related benefits. This teacher pay raise is in addition to an overall increase in education funding that will be included in our full budget proposal.

“Our teachers are working hard to move toward a new set of Common Core State Standards that will help to prepare our students for college and careers.

“Not only should we support our teachers during this transition, but we should also recognize them for the hard work they are putting into preparing our students for college and careers. By 2014, Florida teachers will be a part of our performance pay structure that will help attract and advance the most high-performing teachers in our education system. We believe in teacher accountability and we know our teachers do too. With the new performance system in place, now is the time to increase our investment in Florida’s teachers.”

Governor Scott added, “This $2,500 teacher pay raise will be in my recommended budget, but it still needs to pass the legislature before we can sign it into law. It will also need to be collectively bargained at the district level to be implemented. I look forward to working with educators and leaders at all levels of government and all across our state to make this commitment to Florida teachers a reality.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Ryan McKay Hellard, age 18, of LaBelle, passed away January 18, 2013 in Fort Myers.
He was born Oct. 8, 1994 in Lehigh Acres, FL, to Kevin Thomas and Christy Lynn (Smelcer) Hellard.

He is survived by his parents Kevin Thomas and Christy Lynn (Smelcer) Hellard; brother: Kevin T. Hellard, Jr., grandfather, Joseph Hellard; grandmother, Pauline Hellard; grandmother, Marjorie Padgett

Funeral services will be held Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm at LaBelle High School Auditorium, LaBelle with Youth Pastor Mauricio Briones officiating. Interment will be Sunday, January 27, 2013 in Fort Denaud Cemetery, LaBelle.

Patricia Ann Ringstaff, age 68, of Moore Haven, was surrounded by her family when she passed away on January 17, 2013 in Moore Haven.

She was born Oct. 15, 1944 in Owensboro, KY, to the late Robert and the late Roxana (Guido) Robards. Mrs. Ringstaff married Elton Wesley Ringstaff.

Survivors include her husband: Elton Ringstaff and one son: Robert Andrew Ringstaff, granddaughter, Lindsey Ringstaff and grandson, Barrett Ringstaff.

She was a loyal and faithful member of the First Baptist Church of Moore Haven, where she gave her talent as a musician. She was a school teacher for Glades County School System, teaching some families for three generations. She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and friend who will be missed greatly by her family and of her friends.

Funeral services were held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, January 19, 2013 in with Rev. Sherrill Tillery officiating. Memorials are suggested to be given in memory of Patricia to First Baptist Church.

Todd Schnitt Testifies Against Bubba The Love Sponge

Schnitt Outlines His Defamation Case Against Rival Broadcaster

TAMPA, FL. -- Radio talk show host Todd A. "MJ" Schnitt took the stand today in the jury trial against radio competior Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem.

Schnitt talked about his broadcasting career starting at WCPK in Virginia at age 16. In 1982 as a sophomore in high school he moved to a slightly larger talk radio station, then went to Los Angeles and then to New York City.

He did his first morning talk show. The MJ Morning Show in West Palm Beach, and then got a call in 1994 for a job in the Tampa area which became the MJ and BJ Morning Show for Clear Channel. His morning show includes comedy phone calls and pop culture, targeting women aged 18-49. 

He also does the "Schnitt Show" in the afternoons on talk AM radio, with a conservative take on current news.

He said he considers himself a broadcaster with a reputation "in good standing" in the community. But says, it's "Not as good as it used to be," alleging Bubba Clem was the factor in a change of his reputation starting in January, 2008. He described people calling him names, screaming at him, and nasty emails and phone calls. Bubba Clem returned to the Tampa radio market in January, 2008.

The jury was shown dozens of nasty reading emails from listeners, by attorney Phil Campbell, that Schnitt says started coming at the beginning of 2008. Schnitt deftly defused allegations about any "plugola" as alleged by the Bubba Clem radio show and accusations of contest fraud.

Curly haired with a receding hairline, Schnitt played well to the jury, alternately looking at his attorney as questions were asked and then speaking to the jury on opposite sides of the courtroom, fielding hundreds of questions.

He described a Mother's Day 2008 incident as he was taking his wife and kids to lunch when he found his  wife's car, the house and yard littered with eggs and had to cancel the dinner out in order to clean up the mess he told the court.

Schnitt says he found a note at his gate signed by the "Bubba Army." Within days, he said he contracted to buy a $12,000 video security system after making a report with the Tampa police about the vandalism.

Photo: 13th Judicial Circuit/Fox 13 Bay News

Bubba's 'Spice Boy' Testifies About "Whore"

Bubba The Love Sponge Jury Hears More Questions About "Whore"

TAMPA, FL. -- Matthew Loyd, also known by his radio character name "Spice" or "Spice Boy" testified this morning as a plaintiff's witness in the 13th Judicial Circuit jury defamation trial of Todd "MJ" Schnitt vs. Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem.

The jury trial is presiding under Honorable Circuit Judge James D. Arnold (pictured above while looking over exhibits)

Much of the questioning of Loyd this morning concerned the word "whore" and how it was used on the Bubba Clem radio show when used describing radio host MJ Schnitt's wife.

Loyd told the court he started as an intern for the Bubba Clem radio show in 1997 and then continued working on the show until last year when he started his own evening FM radio talk show in Tampa.

He says the Bubba The Love Sponge radio show "matured" over the years, explaining there were more "girls" on the show in 1998 and went on to say in 2008 the show engaged in radio "wars," including impromptu talk about Todd "MJ" Schnitt and wife Michelle Schnitt.

Plaintiff's attorney played several radio clips from the show where Clem reportedly called Mrs. Schnitt "a whore." The clip actually refers to Schnitt's "wife" and not specifically to her by her name. The various audio clips have been played to different court witnesses about a dozen times before the jury so far.

Loyd says the term "whore" was used as "a general term" and meant to "disrespect" but not to the level later taken. "It was just funny," he said.

Loyd said on-air four years ago three people had contacted him about embarrassing information regarding Mrs. Schnitt. In court, he said he didn't really have any special information and just made the statement up.

Defendant's counsel on cross-examination asked Loyd if there were any particular radio competition the Bubba show was aiming for. Loyd indicated it was the MJ radio show, since it was rated number one.

He testified Mrs. Schnitt was part of the MJ show but he didn't know how to answer whether Bubba Clem was targeting her personally as part of the radio war.

This week the trial is taking place daily for the next two weeks in a new courtroom. Plaintiff Todd Schnitt is now closest to the court camera, while Bubba Clem was seated nearest it last week.

Update - Brent Hatley Testifies: After a short morning recess, the court resumed with Bubba show cast member and side-kick Brent Hatley called to the witness stand, answering questions about the radio show's ratings and listener numbers.

Shaven-headed, bespeckled Hatley calmly answered questions saying the show had about 400,000 weekly listeners. (Later comments in cross-examination by Clem's attorney Joseph Diaco, Jr. indicated the average listenership each 15 minutes would be more like 12,000.) Hatley said the goal of having Bubba fans "booing" at Schnitt's personal appearance promotions was "comedy" not intimidation. And again more Bubba show audio clips repeated again for the jury.

Audio clips were again played where Clem's radio guests and crew may have insinuated Schnitt may have "fixed" a national radio contest and how he might have used "plugola," mentioning products to gain benefits to a Corvette purchase and from a computer store. Hatley denied the clips indicated that Schnitt was guilty of anything improper.

Both Loyd and Hatley, as witnesses for the Plaintiff have not able to listen to or read any news about the trial prior to their court testimony. Until they are dismissed by the Judge as witnesses, they will have to refrain from discussing the trial or hearing anything about other's testimony.

Photo credit: 13th Judicial Circuit/Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Bubba The Love Sponge Trashes Mark Ober

Shock Jock Bubba Continues Radio Rant Against State Attorney

TAMPA, FL. -- Syndicated shock radio host Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem continued his complaints against Hillsborough, Florida State Attorney Mark Ober this morning on his daily morning broadcast.

Clem is being sued for defamation by former radio rival Todd "MJ" Schnitt in the 13th Judicial Circuit of Florida. An expected three-week long jury trial is ongoing this week in Tampa. Friday State Attorney Mark Ober was called as a witness for Schnitt.

More radio personalities are expected to take the witness stand for the plaintiff this morning beginning at 9 a.m..

Photo: State Attorney Mark Ober testifies in Schnitt vs. Clem trial

Clem claims he was only trash talking Schnitt and wife Michelle four years ago, while Schnitt is claiming damages to his reputation and harassment for years by Clem and the "Bubba Army," a fan club.

Clem comes on the air each morning at 6 a.m., and for the last several weeks has been insisting the Schnitt law suit stemmed from a conspiracy among MJ, Michell Schmitt, and State Attorney Mark Ober. Mrs. Schnitt  was a former assistant State Attotney at Mark Ober's office.

10 years ago the Bubba radio show aired the catching, castrating and eating of a wild hog. Ober's office prosecuted Clem for animal cruelty, but a jury found insufficient evidence to convict.

Ober took the stand at the trial Friday, denying any relationship that would have caused prosecuting Clem for the hog incident on behalf of Michelle Schnitt. Ober said his office had ample evidence to prosecute Clem at the time.

Photo credit: 13th Judicial Circuit/Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Monday, January 21, 2013

Watch The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Parade



 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bands and floats from every state in the nation march-high stepping and dancing down Pennsylvania Avenue this evening to patriotic music for the President's Inaugural Parade. The U.S. service bands also play a prominent role in the parade including the famous Marine Band.

Dignitaries and the Presidential guests are watching the parade from the reviewing stand in front of the White House.

(Update: Event is over. Live video started about 3:45 p.m. and video ended about 6:45 p.m. Monday, January 21, 2012)

Al Roker Gets President And Vice-President's Attention At Parade

"Is The Weather Good?" Roker Asks President

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama strode down Pennsylvania Avenue this afternoon to the delight and screams of crowds lining the street during the Presidential Inaugural Parade.

NBC weatherman Al Roker managed to get the President's attention (photo above) asking the President "How's it going! Is the weather good?" to which the President gave a thumbs up and saying hello to the well-known broadcaster.

A few minutes later Roker, kidding his NBC colleagues bet he could also get Vice-President Joe Biden to respond, as Biden walked the parade route with his wife Dr. Jill Biden. Biden did respond to Roker's shout out, coming over to Roker smiling, and shaking Roker's hand, probably to the dismay of Secret Service personnel assigned to protect Biden.

The parade with military bands, and Presidential escorts moved down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington this afternoon, traveling from the Capitol to the White House.

The First Family is now back at the White House and the Inaugural Reviewing Stand to watch the balance of the parade, and will attend two Inaugural Balls this evening.

Al Roker Gets Vice-President To Shake His Hand!

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Photo: WH.gov  Video: NBC News

Investigation Into 66-Year Old Man's Death

Elderly Man Found Dead On Floor At Home

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Hendy County Sheriff's Investigators are looking into the death of 66-year old Boisy E. Jackson of 1019 Louisiana Ave., Clewiston, Florida.

Hendry County Deputies responded to Boisy’s home after getting a call from his employer who was concerned about him after he didn’t show up for work. When deputies arrived they found Jackson deceased on the floor of his home.

During the investigation, it was also discovered that some of Jackson’s personal items were missing from his home.

Hendry County Investigators are following up on all leads at this time. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Hendry County Sheriff’s Office at 863-805-5000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).

Obama Invites You To Engage In Government



President Barack Obama invites Americans to take part in government. President Obama says he is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history.

"That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most," explains this YouTube video.

"The first four years of the Obama administration were big but the next four are going to be even bigger. Join us at http://www.whitehouse.gov/engage"

No New Burglaries In Clewiston Last Week

Chief Attends Training Conference

CLEWISTON, FL. -- In the city of Clewiston last week, Police Chief Don Gutshall says shoplifting, DUI and drug offenses resulted in the most arrests. No new burglaries have been reported now for two weeks.

The Chief attended the Chief’s Annual Training Conference in St. Augustine early in the week. "The training was timely and challenging," he reports.

A brief synopsis of last week’s activity:

1147 Commercial / Residential Security Checks
505 Complaints Investigated
29 Arrests
74 Traffic Citations
43 Red Light Camera Tickets
66 Merchant Escorts
12 Alarms Responded To
3 Traffic Accidents Investigated

Gas Prices Lower Last Week By Two Cents

Prices Lower But Still 15 Cents Higher Than Month Ago

Average retail gasoline prices in Florida have fallen 2.3 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.40/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 8,237 gas outlets in Florida. This compares with the national average that has increased 0.7 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.26/g, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com.

Including the change in gas prices in Florida during the past week, prices yesterday were 6.3 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 15.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 1.9 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 8.9 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

"While gasoline prices have seemingly remained virtually unchanged in many areas across the U.S. in the last week, that has meant that some areas are still seeing prices remain much lower than a year ago," said  Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Gasoline prices in the Rockies generally remain under their year ago levels, with the lowest price in the country in Laramie, Wyoming, where gasoline has plunged to $2.35/gallon. The national average now lags prices one year ago by 9-cents per gallon, which is a more optimistic start to the year than I would have expected," DeHaan said.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

William Lundy Williams, age 66, of LaBelle, passed away January 16, 2013 in LaBelle.
He was born Nov. 24, 1946 in Miami to Chauncey Corbett Williams and the late Delphia Lana (Phillips) Williams. He was a resident of LaBelle since 1972.

Survivors include his wife: Cathleen M. (Phinney) Williams, sons: Steven Williams and Shelburn Williams, both of LaBelle, father: Chauncey Williams of LaBelle, grandchildren: Shelby Williams, Austin Williams-Fraser; Hana Williams and Britten Williams, aunts: Betty (Wally); Eloise; and Lani and cousins; nieces & nephews. He was preceded in death by his son: William Corbett Williams.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 11:00 am at First Christian Church, LaBelle with Pastor W. T. Maddox Jr. officiating. Interment will be in Fort Denaud Cemetery, LaBelle. Visitation will be Monday from 7-9 p.m. at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle, FL.

Nora Fernandez, age 84, of West Palm Beach, passed away January 16, 2013 in Atlantis.
She was born June 5, 1928 in Vertientes, Cuba, to the late Joaquin and the late Emelia (Martinez) Rodriguez.

She is survived by her son: Joaquin (Beverly) Fernandez, three granddaughters: Isa Fernandez, Michelle Malizioso, Jessica Ares, two great-grandchildren: Joshua Malizioso, Justin Malizioso, two brothers: Oclides Rodriguez, Orlando Rodriguez, two sisters: Maria Mazquiaran, Nilda Ramirez, nephew Julio Rodriguez, niece Vivian Pieriechi other nieces, nephews and a host of other relatives. She was preceded in death by her husband Silvo Francisco Fernandez.

Funeral services were held Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:00 am at Saint Margaret's Catholic Church, Clewiston with Father Jiobani Batista officiating. Interment in Ridgelawn Cemetery.

Friday, January 18, 2013

You Don't See This Deputy Parked Routinely We Hope

Hendry County, Florida Sheriff Patrol Car In Unusual Parking Place?


- posted on Facebook

LABELLE, FL. -- A photo posted on Facebook shows an unusual juxtaposition of a Hendry patrol car and what seems to be a massage parlor. Posted as a humorous photo, actually the car in the photo is at the Hendry Sheriff's sign "wrap" shop, not shown in the photo.

New Hendry patrol cars get the new technology plastic decals "wrapped" on the cars instead of the traditional paint jobs. The shop is in Fort Myers.

Escaped Bear Captured In Collier County

Officials Working With Prosecutors For Possible Charges Against Bear Owner

NAPLES, FL. -- Staff with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission caught the missing grizzly bear cub today that escaped in Collier County earlier this week.

A team of FWC staff including officers and biologists located the bear and tranquilized it so that it could be safely returned to its facility. FWC is still investigating the cause of the escape to determine what actions will be taken to ensure this does not happen again as well as any costs associated with the response. 

FWC investigators will work with the local prosecutor to see if charges apply.

“We’re very happy that we located the bear and will be able to return it safely to its home,” said Capt. Mitts Mravic, area supervisor for the FWC.

The bear escaped early Tuesday afternoon from A Grizzly Experience, a licensed facility in Golden Gate Estates.

“Neighbors reported a sighting last night. We focused our efforts in that same area today and were able to locate it,” Mravic said.

Hendry Road Construction Projects Underway

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida Department of Transportation notes the following construction projects underway affecting motorists in the Hendry county area:

US 27 from Palm Beach County Line to Flaghole Road: Maintenance permit project --- Crews will be working on the shoulder of the roadway, reshaping and sodding areas. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No lane closures are anticipated. Motorists should expect vehicles entering and exiting the roadway and should use caution.

SR 80 from CR 833 to east of US 27: Construction project --- Work expands two-miles of SR 80 to four lanes from east of County Road 833 to west of US 27. Crews are constructing ponds, building new bridges and installing drainage. Drivers should pay attention to traffic signs and barricades throughout the construction project, stay alert, and use caution in the work zone. Estimated completion is spring 2014. The contractor is C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.

SR 80/US 27: Interchange improvements: Construction project --- Crews are modifying the intersection with construction of an overpass for SR 80 traffic eastbound to US 27 northbound and for US 27 traffic northbound to SR 80 westbound. The project also realigns US 27. Crews also will widen approximately 3/4 mile of SR 80 to four lanes approaching the intersection, add a traffic signal at the overpass, and install lighting at the interchange. Work currently involves placing fill dirt, installing drainage, and constructing the new overpass and roadways. Northbound traffic is shifted to the west onto new temporary lanes. Expect intermittent lane closures on US 27 and SR 80. Motorists are advised to be aware of construction vehicles entering and leaving the work zone and to use caution driving in this area. Project completion is estimated at end of 2013. The contractor is Ajax Paving Industries of Florida, Inc.

SR 80 from Birchwood Parkway to Dalton Lane: Construction project --- Work is underway to expand five miles of SR 80 to four lanes from Birchwood Parkway to Dalton Lane. Crews are clearing vegetation, constructing a drainage structure near Cedarwood Parkway and constructing a new bridge at the C-1 canal. Motorists are advised to be aware of construction vehicles entering and leaving the work zone and to use caution driving in this area. Motorists should expect some “fog/smoke” over the next two weeks while crews burn piles of cleared vegetation. The speed limit from Birchwood Parkway to Cedarwood Parkway is 50 miles per hour. Drivers should pay attention to traffic signs and barricades throughout the construction project, stay alert, and use caution in the work zone. Estimated completion is summer 2014. The contractor is C.W. Roberts Contracting, Inc.

SR 80 at LeDecca Acres/Everhigh Acres Entrance: Maintenance permit project --- Crews will be excavating contaminated soil caused from a diesel spill from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, January 22 through Friday, January 25, weather permitting. Motorists should expect a lane closure. Sheriff department will be on site to assist with traffic. Motorists are advised to use caution and expect slow moving traffic.

SR 29, south from Church Road to Collier County Line: Maintenance contracts project --- Crews are replacing pipe in the state right of way. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No lane closures are anticipated. Motorists should expect vehicles entering and exiting the right of way and should use caution.

SR 29, south from Wilson Road to Collier County Line: Maintenance permit project --- Crews are placing fiber in the state right of way. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No lane closures are anticipated. Motorists should expect vehicles entering and exiting the right of way and should use caution.

SR 29, south at G Road: Maintenance contract project --- Crews will be replacing a culvert pipe under the roadway. Motorists should expect a lane closure from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily for the next two weeks.

Farm Service Agency Committee Chairmen Elected

Election Of Local Farmers/Ranchers Announced
LABELLE, FL. -- Ladd Bass was elected to represent farmers and ranchers south of CR 835 in Hendry County on the Farm Service Agency county committee. Ladd was elected to his first consecutive term. 

The election results for west Glades Local Administrative Area are:

Ladd Bass- Elected to the county committee. Robert Oxer, Jr., or better known as Brad, was elected to represent farmers and ranchers west of Hwy 98 in Glades County on the county committee. Brad was elected to his first consecutive term. 

The election results for East Glades Local Administrative Area are:

Robert Oxer, Jr. - Elected to the county committee. Lisa Cleghorn- 1st Alternate to COC. Greg Collier was elected to represent farmers and ranchers east of Hwy 78 in Glades County on the county committee. Greg was elected to his first consecutive term. 

The election results for Local Administrative Area are:

Greg Collier- Elected to the county committee (COC). Keith Pearce- 1st alternate to COC

FSA appreciates all of the voters for taking the time to complete the election ballot. The county committee system works only because of your participation. The county committee members will hold their organizational meeting in January to determine who with serve as the county committee chairman and vice-chairman.

Teacher Arrested After Student Bruised


Reportedly Unruly Student Instigated Teacher Grabbing Student

LABELLE, FL. -- A Hendry County, Florida sixth grade teacher was arrested January 11 after a complaint by a student. 

Lois Nellreha Parker, 57 aka Lois  Grizzla is charged with battery and released from jail the same day.

Parker allegedly grabbed a six-grader is her reading class and grabbed his shirt collar, allegedly causing a mark on his neck. Also bruising was reported on his arm.

Parker resides in Fort Myers.

She has been suspended with pay.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

MJ Vs. Bubba The Love Sponge Trial Continues



'The Love Sponge' Wearing Down On Second Day Of Testimony?

TAMPA, FL. -- Called back to the witness stand this morning and again in the afternoon, Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem (photo above), continued defending himself against a defamation suit by former rival radio host Todd "MJ" Schnitt. Today was the second day of trial. Clem was on the witness stand both days.

(Update: Friday morning on Bubba Clem's radio show he claimed the "fix is in" referring to what Bubba inferred was partiality on the part of Circuit Judge James D. Arnold. Clem said he was being badgered by Schnitt's attorney Phil Campbell who was receiving favorable rulings over Clem's attorney, Joseph Diaco, Jr.

Clem continues to call this case a "First Amendment" trial, about his freedom of speech and says he is being attacked because of his continuing remarks against the State Attorney in Hillsborough County, Fl., Mark A. Ober.)

Clem is appearing live from 6 a.m. until about 7:30 a.m. each morning discussing the trial with his radio show cast, some of whom cannot talk about the trial. Sequestration is applying to two cast members who will be called as witnesses. They are not allowed to watch, discuss, or read anything about the trial until after they testify.)

Both Tampa Bay morning show DJs; Schnitt, formerly known as MJ Kelli, broadcast on WFLZ 93.3 and Clem on WHPT 102.5. Schnitt now has a syndicated afternoon conservative talk radio show heard on 970 AM in Tampa and dozens of affiliates around the country, while Clem continues his syndicated morning show, heard in Fort Myers on WRXK 96.1 and other affiliates.

Bubba Clem was seemingly growing weary of the barrage of questions from attorneys today, and seemingly not able to focus clearly on answering questions without commentary. Contrasted from yesterday's "to-the-point" answers to questions,  Clem today was a bit combative and defensive, tending to wind his way around direct answers, and plaintiff's attorney Phil Campbell had to ask the judge to request Clem answer only the question asked.

Perhaps, feeling he had to explain each answer with reason's why he did certain things, the questioning and answers got a bit tedious today, if not laughable.

Jurors once again were 'treated' to hearing audio segments from the Bubba morning radio show, often more than once. As new witnesses were called attorney Campbell played some of the audio bits anew for each witness.

The trial so far, seems to be beneficial to the parties for publicity value more than any damning evidence presented yet to establish Schnitt, aka MJ Kelli and wife have been defamed. But, there still dozens of more witnesses to be called in the projected 3-week Hillsborough County trial.

Both radio DJs should at least reap bigger ratings, despite the many hundreds of thousands of dollars this trial will take out of each's pocket. Both are reportedly millionaires, so maybe they won't miss the cash.

Photo: 13th Judicial Circuit Courts/Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cornhole Tournament In Moore Haven Saturday

Moore Haven Elementary Safety Patrol to Host

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- Moore Haven Elementary Safety Patrol will host its first annual cornhole tournament on Saturday, January 19. Play begins at 9:00 a.m. at Tom Perry City Park in Moore Haven.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit the Safety Patrol, helping to defray the costs of their trip to Washington, D.C.this spring. 

Cornhole, also known as bean bag toss, corn toss, baggo or bags, is a lawn game in which players take turns throwing corn hole bags at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. A corn bag in the hole scores 3 points, while one on the platform scores 1 point. Play continues until a team or player reaches the score of 21.

Prizes: Donations from local area businesses will be tucked inside of two – 48 qt. coolers. There will be 2 of everything such as $25 gift cards.

For a registration form or more information, please contact Kristi Hingson or Barbara Scruggs at 863-946-0737.

Bubba Defends Self In Opening Statement


Court Battle Of Radio Hosts Begins In Tampa - Bubba Take The Witness Stand

TAMPA, FL. -- One of the attorneys for shock jock Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem made an opening statement to a six member, four-alternate jury this morning in a Tampa courtroom, defending his client against defamation charges made by conservative radio show host Todd "MJ" Schnitt.

Photo: Bubba Clem speaks with one of his legal staff during morning court recess

Clem's attorney didn't deny that the radio show used hyperbole and parody about Schnitt, but contends it was permissible. Described was a running feud between the two when they both worked for Clear Channel networks.

Clem alleged that Schnitt was somehow behind a 2002 criminal prosecution against him after Clem had a hog hunted and butchered as a bit on his radio show. Schnitt's wife Michelle is an attorney, and at the time was an assistant state attorney in the same office as the prosecuting attorney. The charges did not result in a conviction.

Clem, then went to satellite radio with his show and the two allegedly did not get along at all since that incident. That feud was the "basis for his statements" about Schnitt, said the defendant's attorney.

Monetary damages and reputation losses affecting Schnitt were dismissed by the defense, saying the two radio hosts had differing audiences, and claimed there would be no evidence presented as to any loss of income or radio audience to Schnitt, which would have to be proved in order to win a defamation suit.

Clem's argument defended the "Bubba Army's" actions and emails since the alleged incidents were not able to be connected to who sent them and who they were. Allegedly, the Schnitt's had been "egged" in 2006,  even before the "Mother's Day" egging incident alleged by Schnitt to be instigated by Clem in 2010 and other  harassment was noted even before Clem became rivals.

It was all "entertainment" said the defense about the on-air comments made by Clem about the Schnitts.

Bubba Clem Testifies

Clem took the witness stand as an "adverse" witness for the Plaintiff case after the opening statements by both sides were concluded. Plaintiff's attorney went over some radio terms, asked about Clem's dismissal from Clear Channel radio and got Clem to testify that he was a "shock jock." Questions about his "uncensored" radio shows on Sirius Satellite arose leading to whether Clem began on-air feuds about Schnitt at that time.

An audio was played for the jurors where Clem said, "I'm calling your wife a whore!" referring about Todd Schnitt's wife Michelle, an attorney at the time. Another clip was played where Clem explained to his radio audience he didn't mean to imply she was literally a whore and said in the clip he didn't think it was defaming.

The court is recessed for lunch. The trial is expected to last three weeks, with dozens of witnesses testifying to the jurors.

Update: The court session continued at 1:30 p.m. as Clem remained on the witness stand continuing to answer questions on direct examination and then on cross-examination from his own attorney.

It must have been an "entertaining" afternoon for the jurors as many audio clips were played from the Bubba radio show, providing probably evidence that remarks made on air about Schnitt were hyperbole and parody against radio figure "MJ Kelli" and not meant against Todd Schnitt and wife personally, according to Clem's testimony and the audio exhibits, which seem to clear him of some notions of alleged defamation.

The trial will continue Wednesday morning a 9 a.m., most likely with Clem still providing testimony in the cross-examination by his attorney followed up by re-direct by the Plaintiff.

Photo Credit: 13th Judicial Circuit/Fox 13 Tampa Bay

Bubba Jury Hears MJ's 'Whore' Complaints


Opening Statements In Schnitt Vs. Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem

TAMPA, FL. -- Plaintiff Todd Schnitt's attorney Philip Campbell claims he not going to sue for Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem's parodies when he said about MJ "He's got pubic hair on top of his head."

But he said calling Schnitt's wife "a whore" was not acceptable, nor accusing Schnitt of  "fixing" a national radio contest, or sending the "Bubba Army" to harass Schnitt and his family.

Campbell alleged that Clem claimed a Clear Channel radio contest was rigged, disparaging Schnitt's character, and said Clem's attacks against Schnitt went "on for years and years" and "hundreds of times." He said this suit is about "reputation," and what someone's reputation is worth.

Campbell said Clem initiated a radio war that Schnitt didn't want to take part in. He said Schnitt is "a tough guy" but Clem's actions were uncalled for, especially going after Schnitt's wife Michelle.

A female character, "Jabberjaw" for the MJ morning show, said Campbell, allegedly left the show and went on the Bubba radio show alleging that Schnitt was engaging in so called "payola."  It was claimed he played commercials for personal gain from the companies advertised.

(Photo: Plaintiff Attorney Phil Campbell speaking to jury, Plaintiff Schnitt on left, Defendant Clem on right)

Other ways Clem expressed "views" will be demonstrated in audio clips later in the trial. Campbell said Clem read emails from listeners including one that called Schnitt names and made threats about throwing him in the river.

Campbell says evidence will show the fan based "Bubba Army" had certain individuals who are "very aggressive" and were issued "calls to action" where Clem directed the "Army" to do harm to Schnitt, including vandalizing his home with eggs on a Mother's Day. A note was allegedly found with "Bubba Army" written on it.

Another alleged incident involved the "Bubba Army" confronting Schmitt at a movie theater and later throwing ice at him, shouting "Bubba Army, Bubba Army!" near a Tampa area restaurant. Obscene email was allegedly sent to Schnitt by the Bubba Army fans.

Clem's attorney Joseph Diaco, Jr. will make his opening statements to the jury defending his client next. Ironically, Schnitt's attorney Campbell was previously Clem's attorney in a previous court case. The jury consultant for plaintiff Schnitt was also employed by Clem in case previously.

Photo Credit: 13th Judicial Circuit/Fox 13 Tampa Bay

MJ Vs. Bubba The Love Sponge Opening Statements

Shock Jock Trial Continues, Bubba Says He'll Take The Stand Today


TAMPA, FL. -- The expected three-week long defamation of character trial between Tampa area DJs Todd "MJ" Schnitt and Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem continues today with opening statements.

On Clems's radio show this morning he continued ranting about "multi-millionaires who send their kids to private schools and whose wife doesn't work" pointing to Schnitt, suing Clem for defamation in a Tampa 13th Judicial Circuit courtroom.

Clem says Schnitt is suing for millions of dollars while Schnitt lives in a "nearly 10,000 square foot home." Clem continued this morning apologizing to the court and jurors for wasting their time on what he calls a frivolous lawsuit.

Bubba "The Love Sponge" is accused by Schnitt, known on the radio as "MJ" for making defamatory remarks against himself and his wife Michelle Schnitt, a former assistant State's Attorney who worked in Palm Beach County.

Circuit Judge James D. Arnold is presiding over the courtroom as the allegations of defamation and threats are given air with dozens of witnesses on both sides and promised testimony from Clem, who told radio listeners he would take the stand today.

The dispute started around 2008 Schnitt says as Bubba Clem, among other allegations called MJ's wife Michelle Schnitt a "whore" and described MJ as a "midget."  Schnitt claims he and his wife have been personally and professionally damaged by Clem's on-air comments.

On his morning show where he appeared live from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. today, Clem claims the trial is "frivolous" and a waste of time and money and apologized to the jury pool members for spending time in the courtroom on this case.

Clem said Schmitt is a multi-millionaire, who makes much more money that he does, just had his "feelings hurt." He claims Schmitt and his wife are public figures and therefore can be parodied and made fun of on the radio.

In 2007, the FCC levied what amounts to a $755,000 fine against four Clear Channel radio stations that carried the Bubba The Love Sponge Show for allegedly including graphic discussions about sex and drugs, that according to the FCC were "designed to pander to, titillate and shock listeners"

At the time of Schmitt's allegations against Clem, both were Tampa Bay morning show DJs; Schnitt, formerly known as MJ Kelli, broadcast on WFLZ 93.3 and Clem on WHPT 102.5. Schnitt now has a syndicated afternoon conservative talk radio show heard on 970 AM in Tampa and dozens of affiliates around the country, while Clem continues his syndicated morning show, heard in Fort Myers on WRXK 96.1 and other affiliates.

Hendry-Glades Obituaries

Edie C. Andrews, age 90, of LaBelle, passed away January 12, 2013 in LaBelle. She was born Aug. 26, 1922 in Wilkes County, NC, to the late Jeter P. Crysel and the late Ella (Welch) Crysel. She was a former member of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in LaBelle.

Survivors include children: Lynn A. Cook; Dean Andrews Jr. and Mitchell Andrews, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, sisters: Lillian C. Church, Margie C. (James F.) Pendry, Phyllis C. (Richard F.) Byers and sister in law: Margie T. Crysel. She was preceded in death by her husbands: A. Dean Andrews, T. Edward Hedges and Phillip Forester, sister: Mary Nell C. Church and Carolyn C. Evans and brother: J.P. Crysel, Jr.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 10:00 am at Akin-Davis Funeral Home in LaBelle with Rev. Warren Grant officiating. Interment will follow at Fort Denaud Cemetery in LaBelle. Visitation was Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Akin-Davis Funeral Home in LaBelle.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baby Grizzly Bear Loose In Florida Neighborhood

125 Pound Grizzly Cub Escapes From Owner

NAPLES, FL. -- An escaped baby grizzly bear is causing a bit of concern in eastern Collier County, Florida and wildlife officials are asking residents to pay attention and get indoors if anyone spots it.

The approximately 125-lb cub escaped earlier this afternoon from a facility at 4670 43rd Ave. NE in Naples and is suspected to be in a wooded area on the owner’s property or a neighboring property. However, it could potentially travel in search of food.

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are helping a local captive wildlife owner locate his young grizzly bear cub today.

“Residents should remain calm, but pay attention to their surroundings,” said Capt. Mitts Mravic, local FWC supervisor. “If you see the bear, please do not approach it. Get indoors if you can, and call the FWC or local law enforcement.”

“Any information on a direction of travel for the bear will be helpful to law enforcement,” Mravic added. “We are working with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and local residents to locate the animal as quickly as possible and are looking into the cause of the escape.”

Bear sightings can be reported through the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Trial Begins For Tampa Shock Jock Defamation Case



Jury Selection Underway In MJ Vs. Bubba The Love Sponge


TAMPA, FL. -- The court case between Tampa area radio talk show hosts is filling the airwaves and print in South Florida as Todd Schnitt presents his defamation case against Bubba Clem and Cox Radio in a 13th Judicial Circuit courtroom for the next three weeks.

(Photo: Court As Attorneys Wait During Court Recess)

Bubba "The Love Sponge" is accused by Schnitt, known on the radio as "MJ" for making defamatory remarks against himself and his wife Michelle Schnitt, a former assistant State's Attorney.

Jury selection is underway in the courtroom today with about 1000 citizens summoned to appear for jury duty, Circuit Judge James D. Arnold, presiding. Only about one-third of the folks summoned actually appeared, about typical for jury pool appearances in the Tampa/St. Petersburg courtrooms.

The allegations of defamation and threats started around 2008, Schnitt says as Bubba Clem is accused of name calling, including calling Michelle Schnitt a "whore" and MJ a "midget."  Schnitt claims he and his wife have been personally and professionally damaged by Clem's on-air comments.

On his morning show, Clem claims the trial is "frivolous" and a waste of time and money and apologized to the jury pool members for having to spend their time in the courtroom on this case. Clem said Schmitt is a multi-millionaire who just had his feelings hurt and says both Schmitt and his wife are public figures and therefore can be parodied and made fun of on the radio.

In 2007, the FCC levied what amounts to a $755,000 fine against four Clear Channel radio stations that carried the Bubba The Love Sponge Show for allegedly including graphic discussions about sex and drugs that according to the FCC were "designed to pander to, titillate and shock listeners"

At the time of Schmitt's allegations against Clem, both were Tampa Bay morning show DJs; Schnitt on WFLZ 93.3 and Clem on WHPT 102.5. Schnitt now has a syndicated afternoon radio show heard on 970 AM in Tampa, while Clem continues his syndicated morning show, heard in Fort Myers on WRXK 96.1.

Photo credit: Fox13 Tampa Bay/13th Judicial Circuit Court