Document filed by Nikolas Cruz’s attorneys to remain sealed, judge rules

Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz appeared in court Monday.

The status hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. would mark Cruz’s second time facing a judge after he fatally shot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.

Cruz’s attorneys tried to prevent him from appearing in court because they didn’t want him to face a media “circus,” but prosecutors wanted Cruz at the hearing. 

During the hearing, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer said that a document filed Friday by the defense, which involved the attorneys’ “access” to Cruz, would remain sealed since another judge had already agreed to keep it sealed. The defense previously argued that the document was no longer relevant to the case. 

The judge told prosecutors and Cruz’s defense attorneys that everything from this point forward should be handled in open court. 

Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes confirmed to reporters after the hearing ended that his team has had physical access to Cruz.  

During a second hearing later in the day, Broward County Judge Charles Greene agreed to allow the Florida Department of Children and Families to publicly release any records it has pertaining to the 19-year-old suspect, although much of its investigative reports and case notes had already been leaked to the media.

One report classified Cruz as a vulnerable adult due to mental illness. It was also noted that Cruz had been diagnosed with depression, ADHD and autism, and that he was taking medication for the issues.

The defense has said that it will seek a plea deal in the case, where Cruz would agree to plead guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder if prosecutors do not seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors have said it is too early on for them to say whether or not they will be offering Cruz any type of plea deal. 

Earlier in the day, the Snead family, who Cruz lived with after his adoptive mother died, spoke to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying that they didn’t see any red flags before the shooting.

“Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” James Snead said.

James and Kimberly Snead said they allowed Cruz to keep his guns inside their home in a locked case, which James Snead believed only he had the key to.

James Snead said Cruz was polite and followed his rules “to a T.”

Cruz is being held without bail at the Broward County Main Jail. The Snead family said they have no plans to visit Cruz. 

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Florida Supreme Court to decide on future of red-light cameras

The Florida Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments later this month on the use of controversial red-light cameras. And the case could have far-reaching implications statewide.

It’s been over a decade since red-light cameras were first put to the test in Florida and they’ve been generating controversy ever since. 

“I kind of like them because of the amount of people here that run red lights, and I’ve been hit twice on a bicycle,” one man said. 

“I disagree with them, actually,” one woman said. “Sometimes I think they cause more problems (and) more accidents.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes.

Opponents of the devices argue that the presence of the cameras can actually be part of the problem. 

“People are concerned about the fines, so they’re slamming on the brakes and that can cause rear-end collisions, and those can cause injuries, as well,” Ted Hollander, of The Ticket Clinic, said. “They’re just as dangerous as any other kind of accident.”

While safety data on the benefits of red-light cameras is mixed, studies have shown that getting cited at intersections with the devices can have a positive effect on driving behavior.

“Once they’ve been cited once for running a red light where there’s a camera, and what it causes over the course of time is a reduction in the number of violations,” Edward Guedes, who supports the use of red-light cameras, said.  

Aventura is at the core of this latest court battle, but other cities have had their own legal struggles over red-light cameras. 

A series of lawsuits caused several South Florida cities, including Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, to suspend or end their programs.

“Honestly, as we did a cost-benefit analysis, it was really just too costly. We just didn’t feel it had that value as far as public safety for the cost,” Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Story said. 

One of the key arguments against the use of red-light cameras is what opponents consider an unlawful delegation of power.  

“We believe the police departments have delegated too much to the camera companies, and these are really police functions that should be done by law enforcement, not by a private vendor,” Hollander said. 

Although private companies can categorize red-light camera violations, proponents say that, ultimately, law enforcement decides whether a violation exists.

“Once the events are categorized, it is still police officers, authorized by state statute to give citations, to look at the evidence and apply state law,” Guedes said. 

The state Supreme Court’s ruling in the upcoming case will likely affect the outcome of more than 60 lawsuits filed by traffic attorneys. An estimated $200 million in challenged fines hangs in the balance. 

 

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Motion to dismiss manslaughter charge denied for shooter of ex-FSU star’s father

A criminal charge won’t be going away — at least for now — for a man facing trial in the fatal shooting of a former Florida State University football star’s father.

Palm Beach County Judge Glenn Kelley on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge against Paul Senat.

Darryl Rudolph was shot in the neck with an AK-47 assault rifle while he was making a repair at a West Palm Beach strip club last April.

According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit, Senat told detectives he was in the office with Rudolph, 55, and co-owner David Fiore, but Senat left to move the rifle, which was kept on a shelf in an adjacent liquor room.

Senat, who co-owns Sugar Daddy’s Cabaret, said he grabbed the gun and it discharged, firing a single shot that went through the wall and struck Rudolph.

Fiore said he heard a loud bang and then saw Rudolph fall to the ground. 

Senat said he didn’t recall how he grabbed the rifle when it fired, Detective Jimmy Francisco wrote in the affidavit. 

“Senat’s conduct was a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of others,” Francisco wrote. 

An attorney for Senat argued that the shooting was an accident that didn’t amount to manslaughter by culpable negligence, but Kelley ruled otherwise.

Travis Rudolph, who played football at Cardinal Newman High School, made headlines after he ate with an autistic boy who was sitting alone while the Seminoles were visiting a Tallahassee middle school. The wide receiver left FSU after the 2016 season and signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted rookie free agent.

He was not in court for Wednesday’s hearing.

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Jury sentences Peter Avsenew to death for fatal shooting of Wilton Manors couple

A jury sentenced Peter Avsenew to death Thursday for killing a couple in Wilton Manors in 2010. 

Avsenew showed no reaction to the decision, as the victims’ families nodded their heads in approval. 

He later flicked off the victims’ families before they left the courthouse. 

“In my heart of hearts, I knew that he was making that gesture to us, and then he admitted that he made the gesture to our family,” one of the victim’s sisters, Marci Craig, said. 

“After what happened in that courtroom just now, I’m happy that he’s being put to the death penalty,” Missy Badget, whose brother was also murdered, said.  

Jurors spent Thursday morning hearing closing arguments from the state and the accused, who decided to represent himself. 

Avsenew’s remarks to the jury were brief. 

He told the jurors he has no regrets in life, he’s proud of every decision he’s made in his life and that no one knows what really happened that night.

“My job here is simple. I don’t have to prove anything to you as clearly the state’s proven. All I have to do is be here and behave,” Avsenew said. “It’s up to you to decide life or death based on the information provided to you throughout this entire trial.

“I have no regrets in my life and I am proud of the decisions I’ve made. No one really knows what happened that day. Everyone can speculate what ifs and maybes until they’re blue in the face, which they’ll never really know.”

Prosecutors ended their closing presentation by showing the jury photos from the scene and the gunshot wounds on the victims. 

Before Avsenew spoke to the jury, the judge in the case asked one final time whether he wanted an attorney, which he once again declined. 

Steven Adams and Kevin Powell were shot dead inside their Wilton Manors home in 2010.

Police said the couple took Avsenew in after answering a suggestive post on Craigslist.

Prosecutors said he killed the couple and stole their money, belongings and a car.     

The defense argued that Avsenew found the couple dead and he didn’t call 911 because he’d been working for them as an escort.

The state said there was no proof to back up the claim. 

If jurors had decided to spare Avsenew’s life, he would have been sentenced to life in prison. 

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Hialeah burglary suspect accused of stabbing dog to death

A burglary suspect accused of stabbing a dog to death in the backyard of a Hialeah home told a judge in court Friday that he had a “spiritual vision.”

Genaro Lastra-Moreno, 39, was arrested early Friday on charges of burglary, animal cruelty and resisting arrest.

According to a police report, officers were called to a home on East Ninth Lane after someone reported seeing a man killing a dog in the backyard.

When officers arrived, they found Lastra-Moreno with a knife in his hand, police said.

Lastra-Moreno dropped the knife and tried to run away, ignoring officers’ commands to stop and get on the ground, police said. He started kicking officers after they grabbed him, prompting them to use “necessary force” to take him into custody, the report said.

“The dog was discovered severely injured and bleeding from multiple wounds and had a cord wrapped tightly around its neck,” the report said.

Miami-Dade County Judge Victoria Sigler ordered that Lastra-Moreno remain in jail without bond on the burglary charge.

“This is all false,” Lastra-Moreno told Sigler through an interpreter. “I have witnesses that I came into that property. I saw a spiritual vision that there was going to be a bad spirit there.”

Sigler didn’t seem convinced.

“And the court will order a psychological evaluation,” she said. “Thanks for coming.”

“I am fine,” Lastra-Moreno said. “I can prove that.”

“Good,” Sigler said.

“I can prove that, but…” Lastra-Moreno said before Sigler interrupted.

“All right, but our time together has come to an end,” she said. “So you’ll need to go have a seat.”

As Lastra-Moreno continued to ramble, Sigler invoked a little Spanish.

“Lo siento, señor,” the judge said. “Hasta luego. Hasta manana.”

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Man says he’ll ‘do whatever it takes to be with Katy Perry’

When Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer learned that Pawel Jurski told a police officer at the American Airlines Arena that he “will do whatever it takes to be with Katy Perry,” Glazer said she considered him to be a credible threat. 

During a bond court hearing Thursday, Glazer said Jurski, 37, ignored officers’ commands, trespassed a restricted area and attempted to rush the stage during Wednesday night’s concert.

“It sounds like he is stalking this poor woman,” Glazer said in court. 

Glazer ordered the fanatic to stay away from the pop star and have no contact with her over the phone or through third parties. She also ordered him to stay away from her home, her business and all concert venues. 

Jurski, who is from Poland, faces charges of aggravated stalking, escape, loitering or prowling and resisting an officer without violence. He has an immigration hold that will allow federal authorities to consider his detention and deportation.

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