Miami-Dade Transit bus catches fire off Turnpike in Homestead

A Miami-Dade Transit bus caught fire Wednesday afternoon in Homestead off Florida’s Turnpike.

The fire was reported on the northbound entrance to the Turnpike at Southwest 112th Avenue.

Southbound traffic on 112th Avenue was shut down in the area after the fire broke out.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said all passengers were evacuated from the bus.

It’s unclear whether anyone was injured. The fire has since been extinguished.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

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Surveillance video released of man believed to have shot, robbed woman in Wynwood

Surveillance video released Wednesday by Miami police shows a man who is believed to have robbed and shot a woman this week in Wynwood.

The robbery was reported shortly after 6:30 p.m. Monday at 25 Northwest 34th St.

Police said the woman was confronted in an alley by an armed young man, who demanded her belongings.

The woman told the gunman that she didn’t have any money, and he pistol-whipped her in the face, shot her once in the leg, snatched her cellphone and ran away, police said.

Surveillance video shows the gunman before the robbery and afterwards as he discarded the gun, police said.

The gun was recovered by police.

Police said the victim is in town to work for the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and said she went to the Wynwood area because she had heard that it was nice.

Anyone with information about the man’s identity is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

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Mother of Miami Carol City Senior High School student accused of attacking girl at school

A woman whose daughter attends Miami Carol City Senior High School in Miami Gardens was arrested Tuesday, a day after she attacked a teenager in the school’s parking lot during dismissal, police said.

According to an arrest report, the victim was on her iPhone 6 when she was attacked by Ernstlatta LaFrance, 30, who repeatedly punched the victim in the face and pulled her hair.

Police said the victim dropped her cellphone and LaFrance picked it up and drove away.

The victim, who told police that LaFrance was upset about an altercation involving the victim’s sister and LaFrance’s daughter, said she drove to LaFrance’s home in Opa-locka to confront her about taking the phone.

When the victim pulled up to LaFrance’s home in the 2200 block of Northwest 136th Terrace, LaFrance struck the victim’s right hand with a stick, breaking the girl’s middle finger, the report said.

Police said someone who was at LaFrance’s home fired two shots but didn’t strike anyone.

According to the arrest report, LaFrance posted about the fight on Facebook and “warned those messing with her daughter to beware.”

Police said LaFrance bragged about beating up the victim and said two black eyes was not the end of it and she would use a gun next time.

The victim was taken to Pembroke Pines Urgent Care to be treated for her injuries.

According to a Facebook page appearing to belong to LaFrance’s daughter, LaFrance was outraged after her daughter was jumped by a group of girls.

“Ian (sic) arguing with nobody!!! Cause if yo child got jumped and maced by like 20 girls u will do the same,” the post read.

Another Facebook post from a man who appeared to be the girl’s father was apologetic about the incident.

“Pray for my daughter and her mother for the wrong decision they made yesterday,” he posted on Tuesday. “No one is perfect. The worst done happen, now pray for the best. God know(s) how to handle this. I would like to apologize to (the) girl’s family.”

Police said LaFrance refused to open the door for a detective on the day of the fight when he tried to interview her.

She surrendered to authorities the next day and was taken to the Miami-Dade Schools Police Investigative Division before she was taken to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

“This type of behavior and conduct — an adult violently battering a minor — is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at our schools,” Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian Moffett said in a statement. “We thank the community and all those who provided valuable information, making it possible for our detectives to take the adult into custody and face the criminal justice system. This unfortunate incident reminds us that it is important for parents and adults to model the type of behavior we want to see in our children.”

LaFrance appeared in court Wednesday, where she was ordered held in lieu of a $7,500 bond. She was also issued a stay-away order for the victim.

“You need to stay away from Carol City High School unless you are with your child at a school event,” the judge told LaFrance.

LaFrance faces charges of burglary with assault or battery, strong-arm robbery and child abuse.

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Bridgegate crimes get New Jersey official 2 years in prison

Two former officials linked to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office are being sentenced Wednesday in the Bridgegate case for using their power to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 in an act of political revenge.

Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, was sentenced to 24 months in prison on Wednesday. He was also sentenced to a year of supervised release, 500 hours of community service, a $7,500 fine, and he will not be allowed to be employed by a government entity.

“I let the people in Fort Lee down,” Baroni said in federal court in Newark.

In her sentencing, Judge Susan Wigenton called the crimes “an outrageous abuse of power.”

Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, former deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs in Christie’s office, were found guilty on seven counts in November, including conspiracy, fraud and civil rights deprivation.

Kelly is expected to be sentenced later Wednesday.

The charges stemmed from the abrupt closure of local traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, one of the world’s busiest bridges, for four days in September 2013. The lane closures on the bridge, which connects Manhattan with Fort Lee, New Jersey, caused severe traffic delays that endangered citizens and posed a public safety risk, court documents state.

Prosecutors alleged the lane closures were part of a deliberate effort to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who did not endorse Republican incumbent Christie in his 2013 re-election bid.

The prosecution had recommended both Baroni and Kelly serve near the bottom of or just below the federal guidelines of 37 to 46 months in prison, according to court documents. In court, prosecutors agreed with the defense to lower Baroni’s recommended sentence to 24 to 30 months.

Christie was not charged with a crime in relation to Bridgegate. After the defendants were found guilty, he released a statement saying he was “saddened” by the case and repeated once again that he had no knowledge of the plot to close the lanes.

Still, the scandal tainted what had been one of the most popular governorship’s in America and later helped sink Christie’s fledgling presidential campaign.

‘Time for some traffic problems’

Emails and text messages released in January 2014 formed the basis of the charges. In one email, Kelly told former Port Authority official David Wildstein, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Kelly later said her messages contained “sarcasm and humor,” and she said that a day before sending the email, she had told Christie about traffic problems resulting from a study.

Baroni and Kelly’s actions cost the Port Authority $14,314.04, according to court documents, including the cost of hours misspent by Port Authority personnel and the expense of a traffic study that was ruined by the closure.

Baroni testified that he believed the closures were a part of a legitimate traffic study, an explanation that had been relayed to him by Wildstein, the accused mastermind of the incident. Wildstein, Christie’s high school classmate and longtime ally, pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud on federally funded property and one civil rights violation.

The prosecution recommended the court sentence Baroni and Kelly to serve time in prison, not only because they were found guilty but also because prosecutors believe a prison sentence will send “a clear and unmistakable message.”

The court documents state, “When dealing with public corruption, only imprisonment can effectively promote general deterrence.”

“As both Baroni and Kelly surely understood given their lengthy tenures in New Jersey government, crimes committed by public officials are particularly insidious because they destroy the community’s faith in its own public institutions,” the documents state.

In all, four Christie-associated political figures have been convicted of criminal charges in relation to Bridgegate, including Baroni, Kelly, Wildstein, and former Port Authority Chairman David Samson.

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Fed official: U.S. economy finally back to normal

Congratulations, America. The economy is finally back to normal.

That’s what John Williams, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, declared Wednesday.

“The data have spoken, and the message is clear: We’ve largely attained the hard-sought recovery we’ve been after for the past nine years,” Williams told the Forecasters Club, a gathering of economists, in New York. He dubbed it a “Goldilocks economy.”

Unemployment peaked at 10% after the Great Recession. Today it’s just 4.7%, a level Williams said constitutes “full employment” because there will always be some job seekers, even in a healthy economy. Inflation is also “nearing” the Fed’s goal of 2%, he said.

The Fed raised interest rates this month for only the third time since the financial crisis. The central bank is expected to raise rates two more times this year, but Williams hinted again that three more hikes might be appropriate in 2017.

He said Wednesday that the Fed is as close “as we’ve ever been” to achieving its goals of full employment and stable inflation.

Williams argued that it’s time for the Fed — and Washington — to shift from obsessing about “How do we achieve a sustained recovery?” and focus on “How do we sustain the recovery we’ve achieved?”

But Williams does think the U.S. economy needs faster growth. The economy has struggled to expand much faster than 2% a year in this recovery. Last year, the economy only expanded 1.6%.

President Trump has said he can deliver 4% growth. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated that at least 3% is achievable.

Williams and other Fed officials have said there’s not much more the central bank can do to boost growth. It’s up to Congress, Trump, and businesses, to “unshackle the economy” by finding ways to get more people into the workforce and increase productivity.

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Fed official: U.S. economy finally back to normal

Congratulations, America. The economy is finally back to normal.

That’s what John Williams, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, declared Wednesday.

“The data have spoken, and the message is clear: We’ve largely attained the hard-sought recovery we’ve been after for the past nine years,” Williams told the Forecasters Club, a gathering of economists, in New York. He dubbed it a “Goldilocks economy.”

Unemployment peaked at 10% after the Great Recession. Today it’s just 4.7%, a level Williams said constitutes “full employment” because there will always be some job seekers, even in a healthy economy. Inflation is also “nearing” the Fed’s goal of 2%, he said.

The Fed raised interest rates this month for only the third time since the financial crisis. The central bank is expected to raise rates two more times this year, but Williams hinted again that three more hikes might be appropriate in 2017.

He said Wednesday that the Fed is as close “as we’ve ever been” to achieving its goals of full employment and stable inflation.

Williams argued that it’s time for the Fed — and Washington — to shift from obsessing about “How do we achieve a sustained recovery?” and focus on “How do we sustain the recovery we’ve achieved?”

But Williams does think the U.S. economy needs faster growth. The economy has struggled to expand much faster than 2% a year in this recovery. Last year, the economy only expanded 1.6%.

President Trump has said he can deliver 4% growth. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated that at least 3% is achievable.

Williams and other Fed officials have said there’s not much more the central bank can do to boost growth. It’s up to Congress, Trump, and businesses, to “unshackle the economy” by finding ways to get more people into the workforce and increase productivity.

Follow this story