Mapping the gray areas

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Some days are so great for the editor of The F State that his feet don't touch ground for hours. Like, last Tuesday, when The University of Florida opened a $60 million facility called (drum roll, please!) the Florida Brain Institute, to provide "new levels of speed, precision, computational complexity, and visual depth and detail" in studying the Florida brain, such as it is, and others. No mention, though, of the state's dire need for rehabilitative services in such matters.

Drawing near

Rev. Billy Graham's health is reportedly seriously declining, so is it more important than ever for him to choose crusade sites to maximize his effectiveness against sin Florida? Of course! Unfortunately, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa could only accommodate a quarter-million people for the weekend.

Wild, wild South

In Tennessee a political candidate was arrested for shooting to death his rival, the incumbent, momentarily silencing critics complaining of "dirty campaigns." Most things that are done elsewhere were done previously in Florida, and that includes intercandidate gunfire. In 1992, Florida House candidate Eric Kaplan did a drive-by shooting on incumbent Bob Starks' home in Maitland, hitting Mrs. Starks.

Ambulance chasers

Tampa City Councilman Ronnie Mason and Council Attorney David Carr were federally indicted for extortion, to wit, implied threats to bury the local ambulance monopolist if it objected to new Mason-Carr ambulance company's sharing the market. The startup, with Council-approved permits, would immediately be worth $15 million on the market. Vote was 4-3. Mason didn't vote, but Carr's stockbroker, Councilman Rudy Fernandez, was the fourth.

Father figuring

U. S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville), in ethical hot water and thus a hand-picked campaign target of the Newtster, got welcome relief when her Republican preacher-opponent, Bill Randall, admitted to a Daytona Beach News-Journal story that he had an illegitimate child in 1980, but then he told the St. Pete Times that, no, it was his son's child, and he was just covering. The next day, he changed back, but the cover story was given with such elaborate detail in order to be convincing that Bill Clinton must be smiling. New charge: Randall raised $13,000 for a local private school and kept it. His explanation: He spent it commissioning art work for the school (that he was safekeeping) and paying for the fund-raisers.

Stuff you might have missed ...

• Miami House candidate Gustavo Barreiro said he's having a small dispute with his ex-wife and a Wisconsin court over child support and related payments. Small dispute. They say he owes about $20,000. He says he's paid some (but decided after all not to show the canceled checks to the Miami Herald), says he pays "all the time," and has in fact paid $750 during 1998 after deciding to run for the House.

• Mr. Ugo Gallo, 72, was arrested in Kissimmee after informing a DMV clerk (who had just broken the bad news that Gallo had failed the written test for the third time) that either she change her mind or he bombs the building.

• Disgruntled buyers filed a lawsuit in West Palm Beach against two insurance brokers. They had bought life insurance policies of AIDS patients at a discount, assuming the policies would pay off quickly, but with new drugs, some patients just aren't dying fast enough to make the investment worthwhile. Unfair!

• Bartow newspaper columnist Carrol P. McQuaig, 52, was charged with grand theft for fund-raising $5,700 for chemotherapy for her leukemia, a disease that the State Attorney's office said she doesn't have.

• The F State suggests the Brain Institute work on the Sexton family of Tampa. Father Eddie was recently reconvicted of murder, and son Willie (I.Q.: 60) pleaded to second-degree murder in exchange for revealing family secrets, which involve murder, incest, Satanic worship, sibling marriage ceremonies, in-trailer/no-doctor-assisted births, and other things.

• New Orleans Saints' DT Julian Pittman played his first NFL game on October 18, then went on the DL (Detention List). He's in Leon County Jail for a month for violating probation on a 1997 burglary charge.

• And retired Hall-of-Fame-bound OLB Lawrence Taylor was arrested for buying crack cocaine in a St. Pete Beach hotel room while in town for a golf appearance. He says he was set up big time, but there is the matter of those 15 crack pipes that were already in the room.

• Just (can't) say no: Singer Bobby Brown couldn't even stay sober and off the weed on the day in September that he turned himself in at Fort Lauderdale jail to begin a five-day sentence for DUI. An arrest warrant was issued.

• A judge certified Bill Proctor as winning his Leon County Commission primary by 15 votes over Anita Davis, despite 75 registered voters mistakenly disenfranchised. Now, statistically, you'd expect she'd get 37 of the 75 votes, and since she only needed 46of the 75 to win the election, why not reopen it? Answer: Nobody votes in Florida; only 11 of the 75 tried to vote, anyway, and it's hard to overcome 15 votes via 11 voters (except in Miami).

• William Lee, 55, West Palm Beach, was convicted of shooting to death his 33-year-old stepson after the younger man had dogged him on a bad job of parking.

• Federal authorities say the suicide toll is four among the international Wonderland club (Internet child-porn) members rounded up in September, but nothing like that will happen in Orlando. U. S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp gave ultralight sentences to two NASA engineers with loads o' kidsex on their computers, finding the men only "lookers" instead of "doers," which is a distinction of first impression in federal child-porn law. Prosecutor Ana Escobar's jaw dropped.

• The valet-parking contractor at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Int'l Airport said the reason so many cars got Ferris Bueller'ed was bad hiring: "We had someone come in and basically establish a criminal gang right in the middle of my business."

• And lawyer Arthur Addess, offering Phyllis Richardson's defense to charges of embezzling $1.5 million from Community Savings Bank near West Palm Beach, said she's simply too dumb to pull it off, that she's a lifelong C-student who had trouble even paying her utility bills. Sounds like yet another job for the Florida Brain Institute.

Copyright 1998 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Chuck Shepherd, who lives in St. Petersburg, also writes the syndicated newspaper column News of the Weird.

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