Florida briefly

Published June 28, 2006

Girl bitten while wading; injuries not critical

FORT PIERCE - A 9-year-old girl was apparently bitten by a shark Tuesday morning as she played in the surf on a barrier island, authorities said. Her injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Juliette Shipp of Harleysville, Pa., was taken to a hospital to get the bite wound on her right calf stitched up. She was listed in stable condition Tuesday night.

"She's going to be fine," Fort Pierce police spokeswoman Audria Moore said.

The girl, who was visiting her grandmother, was standing in the surf on Hutchinson Island when she was bitten, Moore said.

Moore said the water was too murky to see anything, so authorities weren't certain it was a shark.

Prosecutors: Distress call about boaters was hoax

MIAMI - A distress call to the Coast Guard about a boat with nine people aboard sinking in the Atlantic Ocean was a hoax, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Robert J. Moran, 45, of Boynton Beach was charged in a grand jury indictment with making a false distress call.

In the June 11 call to a Coast Guard unit based in Miami Beach, a man said five adults and four children were on a 33-foot boat named Blue Sheep that was taking on water and sinking about 3 miles off the Boynton Beach Inlet.

A two-day, 1,000-square-mile search involving aircraft, helicopters and vessels from multiple agencies found nothing.

Don't dump books yet, judge tells school district

MIAMI - Miami-Dade schools must keep a series of children's books banned by the School Board until arguments stemming from a legal challenge to the ban can be heard next month, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued last week to stop the district from removing copies of Vamos a Cuba and its English language version, A Visit to Cuba. The board's June 14 ban also covered 24 other books in the same series about visiting other countries.

"One way or another, these books are going to remain here until I rule on this case," U.S. District Judge Alan Gold said.

Vamos a Cuba, by Alta Schreier, written for students between ages 5 and 7, contains images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group. A parent complained in April about its depiction of life under communist rule. Two review committees and superintendent Rudy Crew acted to keep the book, but were overruled by the School Board.

Pastor accused of forcing churchgoer into sex

COCOA - A pastor was arrested Tuesday for allegedly coercing a member of his congregation into having sex with him by telling her God wanted it.

Jesse French, 43, was arrested on 10 counts of sexual battery and 15 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. French is the pastor of Solid Life Ministries, Church of Disciples, in Rockledge.

He allegedly told the victim four months ago he needed to anoint her with oil because she was tired, police spokeswoman Barbara Matthews said. The anointing led to sexual intercourse on that and nine more occasions, Matthews said. The woman said she tried to stop the encounters, but French allegedly told her God wanted them to have sex.

Online sexual predator sting nets 20 arrests

BARTOW - Twenty men were arrested last weekend as they arrived at a house where they were told they could have sex with a minor they had met online, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said.

Theme park workers, a law student and a retiree were among those charged with soliciting sex from a child or other offenses.

During a six-week sting operation, detectives posed as boys and girls ages 13 through 15.

Sheriff Grady Judd said many of those arrested said they had suspected a sting. "They ignore all common sense," Judd said.

Destroying eagle's nest gets supervisor fined

FORT MYERS - A development supervisor who ordered a bald eagle's nest torn down to make room for construction was fined $2,000 and ordered to perform community service.

William Martin Murphy, 62, of Fort Myers, who works for Levitt & Sons of Boca Raton, was sentenced by a federal magistrate Monday for destroying the nest of the endangered fowl.

Murphy told agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service he had seen the eagles' nest, but plowed down the tree anyway, according to court documents.