Early signs of trouble

The state Supreme Court (forced by the U.S. Supremes) ruled that 13,000 inmates (check-forgers and murderers, alike) must be released early because they committed their crimes while lenient good-time provisions were in effect. Dept. Corrections said those provisions had been repealed by the time the 13,000 actually entered prison, but the U. S. Supremes said that's not what counts. The STOP organization, which helped pass the current law requiring inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, documented 100 cases in the 1990s in which early-released prisoners went on to commit murders.

The new Jimmy Ryce Act took effect on Jan. 1, permitting the state to detain sexual predators even after their release dates if they are too dangerous, and the F State has so many predators that the records of 182 must be reviewed in January alone. The Dept. of Children and Families short-listed 53, but doesn't know what to do with them, and the default decision is consolidate them in a facility in Martin County (which ought to terrify the EPA by causing some sort of concentrated testosterone overload in that county).

Caging Lyons

A smoking gun turned up in the state fraud case against National Baptist Convention chief Henry Lyons: His ex-administrative assistant came in from the cold to tell prosecutors that she helped him rip an insurance company for $1 million by concocting a mailing list of the "8.5 million" Convention members (she said the real list was 15,000 max) by browsing the $90 Select Phone CD-ROM software for names that sounded black. When the insurance company finally realized which way the wind was blowing, Lyons paid the AA $150,000, allegedly as hush money, and she hushed for two years before the prosecutors found her. And, by the way, she said Rev. Lyons knew her carnally for years [and thus we at The F State will begin referring to her as Other Woman No. 4] and promised that he'd marry her as soon as he figured out how to dump his besotted wife. Nine days before the revelation, the second of Lyon's two star lawyers, fella by the name of F. L. Bailey, dropped off the team, leaving two local lawyers and Lyons's lightweight mouthpiece, Grady Irvin Jr., still around.

Stuff you might have missed ...

• Palm Beach County bureaucrat Ed Holloway told his bosses that his psychiatrist recommended he should be allowed to light up at work (county law prohibits that) to deal with Vietnam War post-traumatic stress. The doc denied it, but that didn't matter to one Holloway fan, county Commissioner Carol Roberts, a severe smoker who routinely puffs away in her own office and dares anyone to stop her.

The Miami Herald found that Miami-Dade is paying $8,400 each per year to rent an array of portable toilets ($600,000 total) for ground crews at Miami International Airport, while a union rep said almost no one uses them because they stink. The vendor is politically well-heeled and argues that the county is getting a deep discount.

• A waitress at a Lakeland Olive Garden berated a diner, Impeachment Boy Rep. Charles Canady, for dogging her man Clinton. Canady complained to the manager, who said the waitress was sent home to cool off, but she said she had been fired. She hasn't yet returned, but might.

• Florida's new Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act took effect, requiring for preweds either (1) a four-hour classroom course or (2) a three-day cooling-off period between license and ceremony (plus a higher license fee). Generally, about 30 percent of marriages are performed by a clerk immediately after the license is issued.

• Volunteer firefighter Donald A. Dwyer, 61, New Smyrna Beach, joined the ranks of Florida's most repulsive nonviolents: He is charged with ripping off gifts donated to his Toys for Tots campaign. Some were found, wrapped, under his own Christmas tree, for his extended family.

• Hog farmers are under fire from neighbors in many parts of the U.S., but in those states, it's because of the stench. In Stuart, Fla., neighbors are livid at Paul Johnson, but only because he plays country and western music over loudspeakers to soothe his hogs.

• State Rep. Larcenia Bullard accused state Sen. George Kirkpatrick of rear-ending her in traffic in Tallahassee and then insensitively high-tailing it to the airport while she was still in pain. She: Democrat, black, in a Mazda, $300 damage. He: Republican, white, in a sport utility vehicle, $5 damage.

• MGM/UA pulled the plug on its proposed movie "Ump," which was to be shot in Lake County's artsy village Mount Dora, because of the impending marriage-breakup of its star Bruce Willis. Mount Dora was the scene of the 1980 movie "Honky Tonk Freeway," "starring" Howard Hesseman and Beau Bridges.

• Jacksonville welfare officials said they would copy policies in other states by giving psych tests to applicants, with those who answer in a certain way ushered off immediately for drug urine tests. The ACLU went nuts, primarily because the questions ask, e.g., if they've ever been sad, or resentful, or if their life is uninteresting, or if they "go along" with the crowd, or if it's all someone else's fault. Test writers swear they can detect drug use from a pattern of answers, but critics say try giving the test also to business execs who want government handouts.

• The grand old man of ecology, Barry Commoner (now age 81), issued a report (not quite a scientific study) blaming the weed killer atrazine (used in sugar fields) for the phenomenon recently discovered by University of Florida researchers: that alligators in four lakes around Orlando are growing small penises.

• Only three people were wounded in random, celebratory gunfire in Miami this New Year's. Police admit that most officers take cover at midnight on New Year's for about 15 minutes, at least huddling under highway overpasses until the rain of skyward bullets subsides.

• And two men were found dead inside a fumigation-tented apartment house in Fort Lauderdale, which they had entered by unzipping part of the covering. Both had spent the previous night in a hotel, but apparently decided that there's nothing like your own bed.

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.