Florida briefly

Published October 14, 2006

Mom also charged in abuse of boy

JACKSONVILLE - The mother of a 9-year-old boy, who authorities say was locked in his bedroom most of the last three years under video surveillance, was arrested Friday, two days after the father was arrested.

Michelle Piercy, like her husband Randall Warren Piercy, is charged with aggravated child abuse, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said. They both are jailed with bail set at $1-million.

Randall Piercy, 41, was arrested Wednesday, when the state Department of Children and Families took the boy into custody. Authorities said he had not attended school, received medical attention or had contact with people outside his family for three years. A video camera monitored him constantly. He generally was allowed to leave the room once a day to use the bathroom.

Michelle Piercy said earlier this week that her husband kept the boy locked up to protect him because he had been sexually abused by a relative. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office told the Associated Press Friday that other children had been removed from the home because of a "sibling on sibling type of issue," but he was unable to amplify because child protective cases are sealed.

Florida soldier killed in Afghanistan

TITUSVILLE - An Army Special Forces soldier from Florida died of combat injuries in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said Friday.

Chief Warrant Officer Scott W. Dyer, 38, of Titusville, died Wednesday in Banditemur. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C., which deployed in August.

Court rejects appeal of Rutherford

TALLAHASSEE - A critical American Bar Association report contains nothing that would cause Florida's death penalty system to be declared unconstitutional, the Florida Supreme Court said Thursday in rejecting an appeal by a killer set for execution next week.

The 6-0 unsigned ruling upheld the death sentence of Arthur Rutherford, 57, for the 1985 murder of a woman in Santa Rosa County. Rutherford is to be executed Wednesday.

Serial killer Danny Rolling, 52, scheduled for execution a week later for five Gainesville murders, made a similar argument in an appeal still pending. Rolling also claims Florida's lethal injection procedure is painful and unconstitutional.

"The ABA report is a compilation of previously available information," the justices wrote.

The report faulted Florida for allowing juries to recommend death sentences by simple majority rather than unanimous votes and questioned the quality of legal representation the state provides defendants.

ACLU sues over homeless feeding ban

ORLANDO - The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging a new law prohibiting nonprofit groups from feeding the homeless in downtown parks.

The suit filed on behalf of First Vagabonds Church of God, its homeless pastor and Orlando Food Not Bombs, claims the law violates freedom of expression and speech.

It prohibits serving large groups in parks and other public property within 2 miles of City Hall without a permit. Officials argued that transients who gathered for weekly Food Not Bombs meals created safety and sanitary problems for businesses.

The group and others have continued to provide meals downtown in defiance of the law.

Onetime death row inmate settles

FORT LAUDERDALE - A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against the Broward County Sheriff's Office by a man who was wrongly convicted and faced the death penalty for a 1986 murder he did not commit.

Broward Circuit Judge Thomas M. Lynch IV has set a hearing Oct. 27 on whether the agreement with Carl Stephen Rosati should remain confidential. Rosati, 46, rejected an offer of $500,000 to settle the case three years ago.

The suit claimed that officers illegally coerced a confession from Peter Dallas that implicated Rosati and Peter Roussonicolos, and that investigators ignored a tape recording pointing to different men who ultimately were charged with the 1986 murder of Joe Viscido Jr. of Deerfield Beach. An independent prosecutor cleared Rosati and Roussonicolos after they spent 16 months in jail.

Dallas has settled for an undisclosed amount and a separate lawsuit filed by Roussonicolos is still pending.

Teens' charges upgraded in beating

FORT LAUDERDALE - Four teenagers were charged as adults Friday with attempted murder for allegedly beating and stabbing a homeless man last month.

The three 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old had been charged with aggravated battery as juveniles for the Sept. 20 attack on William Teeters, 44, who was left bleeding and bruised in a park.

The Broward County State Attorney's office upgraded the charges after reviewing the evidence, which "reveals an extreme callousness and recklessness," said Maria Schneider, a prosecutor.

Teeters was attacked near where another homeless man, Norris Gaynor, 45, was beaten to death by a group of teens in January. Three teenagers are charged with murder in that case.