Larry Griffin, Author at Florida Politics

Larry Griffin

At first court appearance, Markeith Loyd goes on expletive-filled rant about death of girlfriend

Murder suspect Markeith Loyd appeared in court early Thursday morning for an arraignment hearing, at which he went on a profanity-laced rant aimed at the accusations against him.

The judge has also ordered Loyd held without bond.

According to the Ninth Judicial Circuit State’s Attorney’s office, Loyd does not yet have an attorney representing him. He said in court Thursday that he’d be representing himself in the trial.

The hearing was only for his alleged killing of his girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and her unborn child, in December of 2016 – he hasn’t yet been charged in the killing of Master Sergeant Debra Clayton that spurned the nine-day, widely-covered manhunt that ended earlier this week.

At the hearing, Loyd was initially quiet, WFTV reports – answering questions with a “yes” or “no.”

But then he started to open up.

He said he was “defending himself” when Dixon was shot and killed, WFTV reports.

“Ya’ll just making (expletive) up,” he said. “You’re acting like I just went down there and shot that girl.”

“Her little brother got dropped off while we were just there talking.”

The judge warned him that everything he was saying was on the record, but he did not stop. As he left the courtroom, he spat a curse at her.

Hoping to curb pollution, Randy Fine bill would require inspection of septic tanks

A new bill filed today by Rep. Randy Fine, who represents House District 53, would aim to solve the Indian River Lagoon’s septic tank crisis and help all of Florida’s water quality by requiring the inspection of septic tanks as part of home and other real estate sales.

The Indian River Lagoon was revealed last year to have been polluted by human waste leaking from faulty septic tanks. The number of septic tanks in the area is unknown, but estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands combined in the five counties around the lagoon.

In a news release issued Thursday, Fine says he ran on four issues — solving the Indian River Lagoon problem, improving education, reforming the welfare state, and making Florida the best place in America to start, build, and grow a business.

This bill, called HB 285, would at least get started on the first one.

“There is no question that leaky septic tanks are contributing to water quality challenges across our state, including in our beloved Indian River Lagoon,” he said. “This measure would begin to tackle this issue by ensuring that septic tanks are inspected as part of the suite of inspections that regularly take place during a home sale so that buyers are fully informed about the properties they are considering buying.”

He said the legislation would make sure taxpayers or those on fixed income not planning to sell their homes aren’t burdened.

“Taxpayers will not be responsible for paying for the inspections, or any repairs that result, and those on fixed incomes, with no plans to sell their homes, will not be required to come up with funds for regular inspections,” he said.

Randolph Bracy applauds the arrest of suspected killer Markeith Loyd

District 11 Senator Randolph Bracy, who has made criminal justice a priority from the start of his term, applauded the capture of suspected killer Markeith Loyd Tuesday night.

Loyd is suspected in the murders of his pregnant girlfriend, Sade Dixon, last December and of Master Sergeant Debra Clayton earlier this month.

Bracy said the arrest was a victory for the area.

“I am happy to hear that Markeith Loyd was captured last night, and that this dangerous individual is no longer on the streets of Orlando,” he said. “I commend the brave officers and detectives of the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for apprehending this man and finally ending his killing spree. I am glad that Mr. Loyd is going to be brought to justice for the horrific killings and crimes he has committed in our community.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends, and colleagues of Loyd’s victims, and I wish them continued strength in the days to come.”

Bracy was recently named the chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

John Mina: ‘Great police work’ led to the capture of murder suspect Markeith Loyd

Markeith Loyd, suspected in the killing of Master Sergeant Debra Clayton in a shootout last week, was caught after over a week of hunting by the Orlando Police Department Tuesday night. He’ll face multiple charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Loyd has been the subject of a nine-day-long manhunt by the OPD as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and a slew of other agencies. He is suspected to have killed Clayton in a shootout at a Walmart on Princeton Street and John Young Parkway the morning of Jan. 9.

Clayton was pursuing Loyd because he was wanted for the December 2016 murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Sade Dixon.

Before a crowd of reporters at the OPD Headquarters, Police Chief John Mina relayed what had happened.

Around 7 p.m., Orlando Police tracked Loyd to an abandoned house on Lescot Lane in Carver Shores and a SWAT team was notified. Before they could arrive, Loyd allegedly tried to escape, but he ran back inside after being confronted by OPD officers.

Then he allegedly came out the front door clad in body armor, wielding two handguns, one of which had 100 rounds in it. But from there, he was apprehended and taken into custody. He threw the guns on the ground as he went, Mina said.

He did resist arrest as handcuffs were put on him and sustained some minor head injuries.

Mina said the arrest did not come from a tip, but from good old fashioned police work.

“This was great police work,” he said. “It was nine days of officers working nonstop. They were living in their vehicles, going to the bathroom in their vehicles. They talked to every associate who had come in contact with him since December. They tracked every single lead down.”

He said there would be more arrests coming, too, for those who may have aided and abetted Loyd since the killing of Sade Dixon.

Mina said they had notified Clayton’s husband as soon as they’d arrested him – but that the feeling was bittersweet.

“Where we caught Loyd was right around the corner from [Debra’s] mother’s house,” Mina said – and at that there was an audible gasp of surprise in the audience.

He also said they had used Clayton’s handcuffs on Loyd when they took him into custody – a long-held tradition to honor a fallen officer.

Sheriff Jerry Demings said they were relieved to have caught Loyd and that there were going to be multiple charges against him even aside from two counts of first degree murder for Clayton and Dixon.

Demings said the charges included two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly shooting one of Dixon’s brothers last December and pointing a gun at another brother.

Above all, though, they were relieved that the ordeal was over.

“The whole community has been impacted by these events,” Demings said. “All of America was watching these events unfold.”

“We’re very excited to go back to normal business of keeping this community safe,” Mina added. “We’re extremely happy that he is off the street and we can bring closure to Debra Clayton’s family, and Norm Lewis‘s family, and Sade Dixon’s family. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions. Some officers broke down in tears once they heard he was in custody – it was like they were finally able to cry.”

Loyd was escorted, with his face heavily bandaged, from the OPD HQ at around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

Central Florida House members call on Marco Rubio to protect illegal immigrants

In front of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office Tuesday morning, Sen. Victor Torres and Reps. Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith called on Rubio to protect the state’s immigrant population – especially those not here legally.

Their message was that time is of the essence – now that the Donald Trump administration is just days away from taking control of the country, it’s important that Rubio own up to his promises to stand up to Trump when he can – especially when it comes to potential threats to undocumented immigrants.

Trump has said that he intends to crack down on illegal immigration and immediately deport 2 to 3 million illegal immigrants when he takes office.

All three of the House representatives speaking Tuesday were opposed to that.

“Many undocumented immigrants are otherwise law-abiding citizens,” Torres said. “They want to make a better life for themselves. They were born in another country, but they went to school and were raised in the U.S. – it’s the only society they’ve ever known.”

Torres said attempts to deport or demonize illegal immigrants “robs us of the radiant spirit and skill and desire to make America great.”

Mercado said in calling for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump had threatened a cornerstone of the American dream.

“They should be able to come to America without the threat of persecution,” she said. “We shouldn’t be deporting millions, or driving them into silence out of fear. Florida is a cultural melting pot. There’s a large array of cultures and backgrounds. There are headlines every day about members of Trump’s cabinet and racism. This is not the time for silence.”

Smith said there were up to 8,000 undocumented immigrants in the Orlando area and up to 102,000 statewide – so the stakes were “very large” and he vowed to push back and act as an opposition to Trump’s “racist, bigoted and wrong agenda.”

A Rubio spokesperson said by email that Rubio welcomed more voices and opinions from those interested in tackling the issue of immigration.

“Senator Rubio understands we need to secure our borders, stop visa overstays, modernize our legal immigration system, and enforce our immigration laws fairly and humanely,” he wrote. “He welcomes input from people who are serious about solving our immigration challenges and is hopeful we’ll be able to make real progress on these goals in this new Congress.”

Darren Soto to skip Donald Trump inauguration

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto will be skipping the inauguration of incoming president Donald Trump after hearing the comments Trump made recently about civil rights activist John Lewis.

“I am deeply disappointed with Trump’s attacks against civil rights hero John Lewis and will not be attending the inauguration as a result,” Soto said in a statement to Channel 9.

The statement in question came when Lewis, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called Trump an illegitimate president who had been bolstered by Russian interference with the election.

Trump, in response, said Lewis was “all talk, no action,” and that he should instead focus on crime in his own district.

The attacks received widespread backlash over the weekend.

Soto is not the first lawmaker to back out of the Trump inauguration – others, like California Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Mark Takano and New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, have also issued statements saying they won’t be attending.

At annual meeting, Republicans contemplate their place at the top after election wins

With big wins in the November elections and now about to control the House, Senate and the presidency, the Republican Party of Florida didn’t feel the need to shake up party leadership much — re-electing Blaise Ingoglia by a sizable margin at the 2017 annual leadership conference Saturday morning.

The RPOF spent much of the rest of the morning at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando on top of the world and in good spirits. But they also focused on the future and action, now that they have so much power in government.

Sen. Marco Rubio spoke about the need to not waste the chance to take action.

“We’ll veto a lot of the regulations put in place,” he said. “The Senate has moved to start repealing Obamacare. Donald Trump will be presenting his plan for a replacement within the next few weeks.”

Rubio said in the first half of this year, he anticipated Obamacare to be repealed and replaced.

He also said Republicans could look forward to a new Supreme Court justice replacing the late Antonin Scalia, who would hopefully serve for 20 to 25 years, and tax reform and fiscal plans in line with what they said would help fix the economy.

“We can provide an opportunity for the American dream,” he said. “The party will be organized around limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense. If we don’t do our jobs, there are no excuses. We control the House, the Senate and the White House. We can set the country on the right course.”

Palm Beach County official Michael Barnett won the Vice Chair seat, and he and others spoke of moving forward and expanding the party to include everyone.

Barnett, who previously served as the party’s Chairman of their Minority Engagement Committee, said it was important to show various minority communities that the Republican Party could serve their interests.

“We’ve made a good start with this election,” he said. “Eight percent of the black vote went to Donald Trump — double what Mitt Romney was able to get.

“We need to keep reaching out to the Haitian, Caribbean and other communities, and become a part of their community. We don’t all come from the same background, but we can share the same values.”

Though Ingogilia’s win was easy enough, not everyone was happy. Challenger Christian Ziegler was touted as the candidate who could devote full attention to RPOF chair, rather than wear more than one hat as Ingoglia does as a member of the Legislature. Ingoglia currently represents the Florida House in District 35.

Ziegler said he could act like a “CEO of a business” for the party, and always be available to people, no matter what.

Orange County Republican chair Lew Oliver voiced some displeasure with this to Oliver thought the chair should be someone with no other interests or positions in politics.

“In politics, there are a lot of battles already,” Oliver said. “Members of Legislature are involved in a lot of struggles, factions and groups. You don’t want someone who may be motivated to have another set of battles.”

Ingoglia’s acceptance speech focused on the ability of the RPOF to create “a dynasty” that could keep the state in Republican control for the foreseeable future.

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera noted it might be unwise for Republicans to get too complacent in their place at the top — the 2018 election cycle could be even more difficult.

“The Democrats suffered losses in this election,” he said. “They’re doing pretty bad. As low and as bad as they are, they may only have one place to go, though — unless we keep our place and not take this for granted. Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

“Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

Blaise Ingoglia wins re-election as chair of Florida GOP

Incumbent Republican Party of Florida chair Blaise Ingoglia swept to victory Saturday morning at the annual elections with a 152 to 76 vote over challenger Christian Ziegler.

Ingoglia, in a speech touting his virtues, called attention to his own free-market and grassroots leanings, saying there was really only one way to win – through having feet on the ground and getting out and doing the work.

“It’s sitting at home and saying goodbye to your wife and your children, driving to the panhandle and speaking at a dinner, then driving to Jacksonville and speaking at another dinner, and then driving all the way home,” he said, “only to have a chairman call you at 3 a.m. to see if you’re still awake.”

Ingoglia called attention to the victory of President-elect Donald Trump and sweeping victories for the party in Florida as examples of why the Republicans were strong right now.

Now, he said, the challenge will be keeping that position on top and staying there, to create a “dynasty” for the party.

“Staying in power is the hard part,” he said. “We can build a dynasty that lasts for generations. If we work together, nothing will stop us from building a Republican Party of Florida dynasty and winning elections.”

Darren Soto named Assistant Whip for Congressional Dems

Darren Soto has been named Assistant Whip in the upcoming 115th Congressional session. He joins fellow Florida representative Val Demings in that role.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said Soto was “already hard at work” representing his state in the legislature.

“He will bring an important perspective to the whip operation as a new Member,” he said. “He is a rising star in Florida, and I look forward to working with him to support job creation and ensure that the diverse voices and viewpoints of the people living in Central Florida get the full attention they deserve in the next Congress.”

Soto said he was up to the task.

“As Democratic Deputy Whip in the Florida State Senate, I learned firsthand how to work with my colleagues to get things done for the people of Florida and defend our Party’s values,” he said. “Now, I am honored by the opportunity to work with Whip Hoyer to use these skills in Washington for the greater good of our country.”

As Assistant Whip, Soto will assist Democratic leadership on the House floor and keep fellow Democrats informed about upcoming votes and legislation.

Chuck O’Neal to try again at black bear protection bill with Linda Stewart

Black bear activist and former Senate candidate Chuck O’Neal of Orange County is trying again with the black bear protection bill he coordinated on last year with Darren Soto – though this year he’s working with newly-elected Senator Linda Stewart, as Soto has moved on to higher planes of governance.

The bill, which was only in draft form on Friday, would enact a number of provisions to protect the state’s black bears.

Among those provisions are creating a bear-resistant garbage container account within the Nongame Wildlife Trust Fund, requiring the commission to establish rules for how local governments can purchase those cans, banning the harvest of palmetto berries, which are some of the black bear’s main food sources, adjusting the burn schedules for state parks containing black bears, prohibiting the sale of timber rights to certain trees in forests and parks where black bears live, and establishing a code designating black bear habitats and areas of human-bear conflict.

By adjusting the burn schedules, O’Neal said they could reduce and avoid incidents where bear cubs are burnt alive during controlled burns in the wintertime.

The palmetto berry issue comes from an unusual phenomenon in which palmetto berries are harvested in bulk and sold – especially overseas, Stewart said.

“There’s a market for them overseas,” she said. “Supposedly they’re like an aphrodisiac or something.”

Without the berries available in their natural habitat, Stewart said bears are more likely to come into human garbage cans to scrounge for food.

“They can be destructive,” she said. “They can tear down the screens, hit peoples’ swimming pools… if I walked outside to a bear in my pool I wouldn’t be too thrilled either.”

But the much-talked-about hunt in 2015, she said, was a disaster that she didn’t want to see happen again.

“They were killing mother bears that had cubs,” she said. “Killing bears in parts of the state where problem didn’t exist for them to be going into neighborhoods. It was not very well thought out, nor was it very well monitored.”

The overall effect the bill would have is protecting the black bear from unnecessary killing by lessening interaction with humans.

“If we continue to evict black bears from the forests by creating commercial timber projects out of their habitat, we should not be surprised to see them in our back yards seeking food and shelter,” O’Neal wrote to

Stewart said the bill is currently seeking a co-sponsor in the House.

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