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Restriction on exit polls invalidated by federal judge

By Wire services
Published October 25, 2006


A federal judge on Tuesday declared unconstitutional a Florida law that prohibits exit polling within 100 feet of a voting place, saying there is no evidence such activity disrupts voting.

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck ordered state officials not to enforce the law as it relates to exit polls in the Nov. 7 election, leaving intact a 100-foot limit on activities such as solicitation, distributing campaign material or peddling.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the Associated Press and five television networks who plan to jointly conduct exit polls at about 40 polling places next month.

Secretary of State Sue Cobb's office, which administers elections, fought the lawsuit. But Huck agreed with the plaintiffs' contention that the 2005 law violates the First Amendment's free speech and freedom of the press protections. And he ruled that the state "failed to provide any meaningful evidence that exit polling has any history of leading to voter intimidation, impeding voter access to the polls or encouraging election fraud."

Cobb's spokeswoman, Jenny Nash said election officials were pleased that Huck did not strike down the entire law. She said no decision had been made on whether the exit polling aspect would be appealed.

"Order at the polls was really the intent. This decision works out well for everyone," Nash said.


Deputy's ambusher sentenced to death

A man who ambushed and killed a sheriff's deputy has been sentenced to death.

Circuit Judge T. Michael Johnson on Monday sentenced Jason Lee Wheeler, 31, for the February 2005 killing of Lake County Deputy Wayne Koester.

Koester and other deputies were responding to a domestic violence call from Wheeler's girlfriend. Wheeler was waiting in the woods with a sawed-off shotgun and opened fire.

Wheeler fled but was shot and captured six hours later. The wound left him paralyzed.

Jurors found Wheeler guilty May 20 of Koester's murder and other charges and later recommended the death penalty.

Wheeler sent a five-page letter to the judge in July that blamed Satan and drugs for his crime. "I would give anything to go back and change that day," he wrote.


Movie and TV vehicles go up in flames

Cars, motorcycles and boats used in Miami Vice, 2 Fast, 2 Furious and CSI: Miami were destroyed in a warehouse fire early Tuesday, authorities said.

Firefighters think the blaze started in a trash bin and spread. Artie Malesci, a stunt man who said he rents the building and owns the vehicles, estimated the loss at $500,000.

Among the props lost: a 1992 black Corvette, motorcycles used in 2 Fast, 2 Furious and an airboat featured on CSI: Miami.


Police chief resigns over 'Jelly Belly' e-mail

This city's police chief abruptly resigned after employees complained about his tough fitness talk in an e-mail with the subject, "Are you a Jelly Belly?"

Paul Goward gave no specific reason for resigning Monday, but City Manager David Green told the Ledger of Lakeland the e-mail prodding employees to get in shape was a factor. Goward was chief for 2½ years.

"If you are unfit, do yourself and everyone else a favor. See a professional about a proper diet and a fitness training program," Goward wrote in the e-mail. "We didn't hire you unfit and we don't want you working unfit. Don't mean to offend, this is just straight talk. I owe it to you."

An anonymous letter to city officials said, "I have worked for the department as an officer for a long time and I have never seen such a morale problem like there is and this letter from the chief ... is the icing on the cake."


Exotic spider smuggler is given probation

A man was sentenced to 18 months probation Tuesday for smuggling 35 exotic spiders into the United States from Brazil, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Jared H. Ohsman, 25, was convicted of unlawful possession of restricted species, after Miami authorities intercepted the shipment of 35 Brazilian spiders to an Arizona pet store.


[Last modified October 25, 2006, 01:20:59]

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