2 years ago

Michelle Malkin: Release the Florida school shooting surveillance video

(Fox Business/YouTube)

 
 
Open government isn’t just good government. It’s the public’s right.

In Florida, the Broward County Sheriff’s office and Broward County school district are fighting to keep exterior surveillance video from the day of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hidden from view. As journalists and citizens who’ve waged uphill battles against secrecy well know, government agencies too often invoke broad disclosure exemptions in the name of protecting public safety when they’re really just trying to protect their own jobs.

Feckless Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and media-luvin’ school Superintendent Robert Runcie are defendants in an open records lawsuit filed Tuesday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald and CNN. The local officials claim that surveillance videos from cameras outside the school are completely exempt from sunshine laws because they would expose the district’s security system plan; are part of an active criminal investigation; and involve an active internal affairs investigation of school resource officer/BSO Deputy Scot Peterson, whom Israel notoriously threw under the bus last week.

Let’s break down these specious excuses for keeping information vital to the public interest locked in a black box.

First, disclosure of the videos would pose no danger to students because Building 12, where the shooting took place, will be demolished.

Second, key investigative records, transcripts and logs in the active criminal probe against the Parkland school shooter have already been released to the public. Israel himself coughed up call logs documenting 23 times the shooter’s family or neighbors called deputies to the house. Additional dispatch records obtained by local and national media outlets revealed 22 more calls to law enforcement dating back to 2008 that had not been initially communicated by the selectively disclosing sheriff.

Moreover, the open records lawsuit notes that Israel has already publicly described in detail what the video shows about Peterson’s actions: He arrived at the west side of Building 12, took position, got on his radio, had a view of the western entry of Building 12 but never went in for “upwards of four minutes” while the shooter slaughtered 17 innocent students and teachers.

In addition, government sources have leaked FBI transcripts of caller tips reporting Nikolas Cruz’s violent threats and tendencies that went unheeded. Unidentified sources leaked school disciplinary records documenting the shooter’s troubles dating back to elementary and middle school. And a Broward Circuit Court judge ordered the release last week of a State Department of Children and Families investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect in the shooter’s home.

“If there were shortcomings,” Broward Circuit Court Judge Charles Greene concluded, “the public has the right to know.” Any right to privacy that the shooter may have claimed was effectively waived by his own bloody actions and outweighed by the public interest.

The Broward County school district is hiding behind the sheriff’s skirt, claiming that since law enforcement took possession of the videos, its hands are tied. But that school property is the public’s property, subject to the state’s public records act. As Fort Lauderdale lawyers Dana McElroy and James McGuire, who filed the petition on behalf of the media outlets, point out in the “good cause” petition for disclosure that I obtained this week: “The District should be required to demand, and the Sheriff’s Office should be required to deliver, a copy of the video back to the District” in order to comply with the “legal requirement that it maintain and disclose its own public records.”

Third, Deputy Scot Peterson has already resigned, so the sheriff’s office should not be able to hide behind the confidential personnel records shield. Peterson publicly disputes Israel’s version of events and released his own detailed account of his actions after his former boss blabbed about the surveillance tape at a backside-saving press conference last week. This is “information the public needed to know,” Israel pontificated last week, yet he is denying the public’s right to see and judge the surveillance videos for themselves.

Israel is a grandstanding publicity hound, enabled by gun control extremists in the media, whose “just trust us” arrogance is an obstacle to the truth. He’s a dime a dozen. Across the country, government control freaks in local, state and federal agencies — both civilian and law enforcement — routinely block public disclosure of information that destroys their carefully spun, job-preserving narratives.

Release the videos. Let the public, especially competent security experts, see them. Without transparency, there can be no accountability. Without accountability, “Never Again” is yet another empty, expedient cable TV sound bite in an ocean of self-serving rhetoric.

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

43 mins ago

North Zone dove season opens on Labor Day weekend

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Chuck Sykes wants to make sure dove hunters are not caught flat-footed this September when the season opens earlier than usual.

The North Zone dove season will open on Labor Day weekend this year, a week earlier than most people are accustomed to. Sykes wants to get the word out well ahead of the season.

“Most people, me included, typically think dove season opens in the North Zone the first Saturday after Labor Day,” Sykes said. “That’s the way it’s been most years. There have been a few times since 2000 that the season has come in the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.”

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Because of a variety of opinions about when Alabama’s dove seasons, North and South zones, should be set, WFF officials decided that a survey inviting public input would be the best way to accommodate the majority of dove hunters.

“With anything we do, you’ve got some people who want the season to start early,” Sykes said. “You’ve got some who want to start late. Some want to hunt in October. Everybody has their own idea about what they want dove season to be, or any season for that matter. What that survey showed was that the majority of people wanted it to come in as early as it could in September. They wanted as many weekends and holidays as possible included where they would have opportunities to go. With Labor Day falling later this year, we had to decide if we wanted to push the season to September 12 in the North Zone or if we wanted to have it Labor Day weekend. There’s pros and cons to both sides, but we looked at what that survey said. The majority said they wanted it early, so we gave them the earliest date possible. We were also giving them an extra weekend and giving them a holiday. Those were all three things that ranked extremely high on our survey.”

The North Zone 2020-2021 season is set to start on September 5 and run through October 25 for the first segment. Hunters on opening day can hunt from noon until sunset. After opening day, hunting is allowed from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 birds of either mourning doves or white-winged doves or a combination of the two. The second segment is November 21-29, and the final segment is set for December 12 through January 10, 2021.

In the South Zone of Baldwin, Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Mobile counties, the 2020-2021 season opens on September 12 and runs through November 1. The final two segments are the same as the North Zone.

“We know we can’t make everybody happy,” Sykes said. “This isn’t something we took lightly. This isn’t something we didn’t deliberate. And it definitely wasn’t something where we didn’t listen to the hunters’ opinions. Basically, this is what the majority of the people who took the survey said they wanted. My biggest concern is that I didn’t want people to be caught off-guard. I wanted them to have plenty of time to make their plans for Labor Day weekend or vacation.”

Sykes also pointed out that hunters don’t necessarily have to plan a hunt on opening day, but it is available if wanted. Some may choose to wait until the following weekend.

Sykes and WFF Migratory Bird Coordinator Seth Maddox said the window for planting crops like corn, grain sorghum or sunflowers for doves has passed, but there is a short window for browntop millet remaining.

“You might be able to get some browntop millet in the ground in the next couple of weeks, but the time for other crops has passed,” Maddox said. “If you don’t have anything planted, the best thing to do is to bush-hog or burn off a field and prepare it by disking so that you have a well-prepared seed bed, and then top-sow some winter wheat. You can begin that as early as August, and you are allowed to plant up to 200 pounds of wheat per acre on a well-prepared seed bed.”

Anyone with questions can visit the ACES (Alabama Cooperative Extension System) website at https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/forestry-wildlife/mourning-dove-biology-management-in-alabama/ to learn more about allowed agricultural practices for dove hunting are listed.

“We see it every year,” Sykes said. “Yes, you can plant for erosion control. You can plant for winter grazing. There are agricultural practices that are legal, but simply going into a pasture and top-sowing wheat is not an accepted agricultural practice. Disking a field and spreading cracked corn is not an accepted agricultural practice. The ACES website explains in great detail what agricultural practices are allowed so that you will be legal and have a successful dove hunt.”

Landowners and dedicated dove hunters sometimes make the extra effort by adding fake power lines to attract the birds. Maddox recommends giving the birds as many places to roost and loaf as possible.

“Don’t cut down dead trees near a field,” Maddox said. “They like to have those loafing trees to sit in and check out the field before and after they eat. If you can provide a water source for them, that can make a big difference. And make sure your seedbed is disked well. Doves don’t have strong legs to scratch at the ground like turkeys do to uncover seeds. Doves are also attracted to freshly turned soil. It exposes seeds that didn’t sprout and bugs they eat as well. They pick up bits of grit for their crops to help grind the seeds. Doves are definitely attracted to a freshly plowed field.”

Dove hunting is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Alabama and the nation.

“Most people wouldn’t know that doves are the most hunted and harvested game in the United States,” Maddox said. “In our most recent survey, we had about 36,000 hunters with 200,000 days in the field and a harvest of more than 1 million birds. Most hunters don’t hunt but five or so days a year, so that’s a lot of birds harvested in the first couple of weeks of the season.”

Maddox said the annual harvest has no impact on the overall U.S. dove population of about 250 million birds.

“Doves nest seven or eight times a year here in Alabama,” he said. “They are a short-lived bird with a high rate of reproduction, so we’re not hurting the population at all. This renewable and sustainable resource continues to offer abundant opportunities to Alabama hunters.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

14 hours ago

Former Etowah Co. sheriff sues ALdotcom, law enforcement officers over damaging story

Former Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin is suing for defamation the individuals involved in a 2018 news story in which a woman accused him of illegal activities, including statutory rape.

The defendants listed in the suit include current Etowah County Sheriff Jonathan Horton, Oneonta Police Chief Charles Clifton, the parent company of Alabama Media Group’s AL.com and reporter Connor Sheets.

Horton was Rainbow City’s police chief at the time the story was published. He later beat Entrekin in a Republican primary to become the county sheriff.

The news story at the center of the lawsuit was published in 2018 under the headline “Police investigating allegations Alabama’s ‘Beach House Sheriff’ had sex with underage girls.”

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Entrekin was given the moniker ‘Beach House Sheriff’ because of a widely shared report from earlier in 2018 that detailed how he used an old Alabama law to keep for himself hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for feeding the county’s prisoners; the beach house had a similar price tag to the amount of money he kept.

Entrekin’s lawyers argue in the suit that the publication of the article alleging rape was “reckless and malicious” and in their mind more due to a collective animus from the defendants than proper journalistic and policing practices.

The claims at the center of the 2018 article are made by a woman named Mary Elizabeth Cross, who alleged that Entrekin committed statutory rape by having sexual relations with her at drug-fueled parties in 1992 when he was 29 and she was 15. Cross was age 41 in 2018 when she came forward with the allegations.

Entrekin told AL.com at the time, “I’ve never had sex with any 15-year-old girl or had drugs around or anything. I have never done drugs in my life. That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of. Never, ever has anything like that happened before.”

Cross brought the accusations to Horton in 2018, who was police chief of Rainbow City at the time. Horton was also then running against Entrekin in a campaign to be Etowah County Sheriff, so he referred the case to Oneonta Police Chief Charles Clifton.

Entrekin’s lawyers argue in the suit that Oneonta Chief Clifton has been “harboring a personal grudge against” against Entrekin “since the 1990s” that stemmed from “past professional interactions.”

The AL.com report says Clifton is the individual who contacted reporter Connor Sheets about the allegation, and two reporters and law enforcement officers interviewed her together during a long drive.

The lawyers for the former sheriff make similar claims that both Sheets and Horton participated in the article out of personal dislike for Entrekin.

Horton’s dislike, they argue, stems from what was in 2018 his ongoing campaign against Entrekin for the county sheriff position.

Sheets, they allege, harbors “a demonstrated dislike for Alabama sheriffs generally, and Mr. Entrekin in particular.”

In addition to Sheets, the suit names Advance Local Media, which publishes AL.com, along with the cities of Oneonta and Rainbow City, which employed Clifton and Horton respectively at the time of the article’s publishing.

The AL.com report cited a friend of Cross’, who the reporter allowed to remain anonymous, as corroborating the existence of the parties where young girls were with older men around the time of the alleged criminal behavior.

Entrekin’s complaint says that he did not purchase the lakeside property until 1995, three years after the incidents are reported to have happened. Additionally, a boat structure cited in the allegation against Entrekin was not built until 2009, his lawsuit contends as evidence in his favor.

The attorney for Entrekin filed the lawsuit in Etowah County Circuit Court. It can be accessed here.

The defendants in the suit did not return calls for comment left by the Gadsden Times, the paper closest to the relevant officials.

Entrekin’s lawyers said in a statement that their client “seeks to correct the record and repair some of the damage these defendants have done to his reputation and employment possibilities.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

15 hours ago

Officials say Alabamians cannot be required to wear a mask in order to vote

Secretary of State John Merrill on Friday released guidance from his office and Attorney General Steve Marshall saying face masks cannot be a requirement in order to vote in Alabama’s July 14 primary runoff election.

A release from Merrill’s office outlined that the secretary of state has received numerous inquiries from county and city officials questioning the legal authority to require or not require voters to wear masks. Various localities in the state have enacted general mask ordinances recently.

In public response to those inquiries, Merrill confirmed that state law does not place limits on an individual’s right to vote, citing Article III, Section 177(a) of the Constitution of Alabama, which reinforces the inherent right of eligible citizens to vote.

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Additionally, Merrill’s office advised that a notice from the attorney general’s office dated June 30 declared, “Though the Attorney General strongly recommends that voters and poll workers follow CDC guidelines when in public places and behave in a manner that is respectful of poll workers and fellow voters, it is clear that state law does not allow for an individual’s qualification to vote to be contingent upon the wearing of a mask or face covering, respecting social distancing, using gloves, or having a temperature in a normal range.”

Merrill stressed the bottomline.

“While it can be ‘strongly recommended’ that an individual wear a mask, it cannot be required,” he stated. “In our state, we will continue to see that the right for every eligible Alabamian to vote is protected.”

You can view CDC guidance for voters and election polling places here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

How to save the 2020 college football season

The sports media and the political media world are gathering to undo college football.

Why? I can’t even begin to understand it.

But with the Ivy League ending their fall sports and the Big 10 ending non-conference games, with other conferences to follow, it is becoming increasingly clear that the game we all love will be killed by the end of the month, if not sooner.

The ending of non-conference games makes absolutely no sense.

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Look at the University of Florida and their schedule: They have a game with the University of Kentucky at home and an away game at Florida State. Which game do you think will get played (if there is a season)?

Kentucky, because it is in the same conference.

But Lexington and Gainesville are 708 miles away, while Gainesville and Tallahassee are around 150 miles away from each other.

So logistically, having Kentucky come to Florida is a bigger “hassle” but that game might get played.

If you can rationalize this using science, medicine, politics, logic, common sense or wild guesses, let me know.

This ridiculous decision all but dooms a season because it is indefensible and silly.

So, how do we fix this?

Throw out the conferences for a season and replace them with 50 state divisions and reset the schedule completely.

If the distance is an issue, and that’s the best reason I can come up with to end non-conference games, this eliminates that.

This will force every state to play all games in their home state, with no exceptions. These are trying times after all.

Here is a potential Alabama schedule:

9/5 – Alabama A&M  at Alabama
9/12 – Faulkner at Alabama
9/19 – Alabama at Samford
9/26 – Alabama at Troy
10/3 – UAB Blazers at Alabama
10/10 – Birmingham-Southern Panthers at Alabama
10/17  – Alabama at West Alabama
10/24 – Alabama at Alabama State
11/7 – Jacksonville State at Alabama
11/14 – North Alabama at Alabama
11/21 – Alabama at South Alabama
11/28 – Auburn at Alabama

This will be good for these schools to play the powerhouse. Maybe fans eventually get to see these games in person; the schools could even get some of that sweet TV revenue.

The rankings can be done, the same with the coaches’ and media polls.

When this schedule is done, have your conference championships and College Football Playoff as normal.

Is this the perfect system? No.

This is going to require innovation and new ideas. If you want an actual college football season, this is the best bet.

Any conference that thinks it is going to continue on, as usual, is crazy. The sports media is set for self-destruction with their thirst to insert politics into America’s avenues for escape. Killing the college football season is their goal.

They will chip away at them until they relent.

Economies will be further destroyed, jobs will be lost (in their industry as well), and lives will be changed forever.

When college football is officially canceled, we will all know things have changed for good.

It will happen.

16 hours ago

Five Guys workers who refused to serve cops have been fired, suspended

The Five Guys employees who reportedly refused to serve members of the Daphne Police Department have been fired and suspended, according to a statement from the company.

Yellowhammer News detailed earlier this week a report first made by WKRG that three Daphne police officers were refused service at a Five Guys location.

The national headquarters of the restaurant released a statement saying, “The actions the Daphne, AL franchise have taken include termination and suspension of the employees involved. The store has temporarily closed for further education and customer service training with a representative from the Daphne Police Department and will reopen at 4PM today, July 10th.”

“The actions and sentiments of a few employees in Daphne, AL do not represent Five Guys or the local franchisee,” added the company on Twitter.

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The incident caused uproar on social media from citizens angry that members of a police department were being refused service based on the uniform they wore.

“The Daphne Police Department appreciates the outpouring of support from our community and from supporters of Law Enforcement across the country. We also want to thank Five Guys on a corporate and local level. We have been working through this situation and there has been total cooperation. The Daphne Police Department does not think that the actions of a few employees represents Five Guys as a whole,” the Daphne police told FOX10 on Thursday, while the investigation was still underway.

The department also dispelled rumors that the officers were not wearing masks, saying, “All three officers were wearing masks the entire time they were inside of the establishment. The events that occurred while the officers were in the restaurant were unfortunate.”

Five Guys added on Friday that the chain was committed to “fair, respectful, and equal treatment for all customers.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95