Pam bondi Archives - Florida Politics

Pam Bondi: Parkland massacre ‘will be a death penalty case’

Though much of the talk from elected officials and politicians in the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Parkland has been of increased mental health screening and “school hardening,” there will be a legal case against Nikolas Cruz who killed 17 people at his old high school.

Cruz made his first court appearance Thursday, and was held without bond. Prosecutors spoke of the premeditated nature of the crimes, and Cruz fleeing the scene.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Pam Bondi asserted on Fox News Monday that she fully expects prosecutors will seek the death penalty in Cruz’ case.

“I’m certain they will be seeking the death penalty,” Bondi said.

“I’m certain that there will be no bond given the 17 deaths. The state will have 45 days to determine whether they seek the death penalty,” Bondi said, citing “aggravators and mitigators.”

Premeditation and calculation are among those aggravators, Bondi said.

“With 17 dead children, walking into a school with these firearms, they will be seeking the death penalty,” Bondi said, describing Cruz as a “monster in this world.”

Federal, state leaders pitch mental health awareness, ‘school hardening’ in wake of Parkland massacre

Less than 24 hours after Nicolas Cruz killed 17 people at the high school that expelled him in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in, as did Gov. Rick Scott and state leaders.

State leaders vowed to devote resources to “school hardening” and ensuring that mentally ill people don’t have access to guns. The President vowed a renewed focus on mental health and school safety.

Trump, who tweeted on Thursday morning that there needs to be more robust reporting of people who show warning signs to authorities, addressed media from the White House.

“Today we mourn for all of those who lost their lives. We comfort the grieving and the wounded. And we hurt for the entire community of Parkland, Florida, that is now in shock and pain and searching for answers.”

“Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the students and their families,” the President said. “We are all joined together as one American family.”

“No child, no teacher should ever have to be in fear in an American school,” Trump added, vowing to visit Parkland, and urging Americans to cling to faith in times of sorrow.

Trump said he was “making plans to visit Parkland to meet with families and local officials and continue coordinating the federal response.”

Trump, addressing America’s “children,” said “you are never alone and never will be.”

Trump suggested that children turn to teachers and faith leaders in times of trouble, and vowed to address the issue of “mental health” and “making our schools safer.”

“We’re making our schools and our children top priority. It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we’re making a difference. We must actually make that difference,” the President said.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed sheriffs in Washington, and Parkland was on his mind.

“It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening,” Sessions said.

“We’ve got to confront the problem, there’s no doubt about it … We at the Department of Justice are going to make this a priority,” Sessions added.

“I think effective enforcement of our gun laws, focusing on criminals and dangerous people, mentally ill people where we have the legal ability to do so, can reduce violence in our communities,” Sessions said. “It’s not good if we’ve got gun laws that say criminals can’t carry guns that never get enforced.”

In between the speeches by the President and the Attorney General, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel promised to be very “animated” in discussing the way forward after this mass shooting, which includes adding police officers.

That way forward will include state laws preventing the mentally ill from buying guns, such as Cruz’s AR-15 that he used to kill 17 people.

Gov. Rick Scott vowed to “make sure this never happens again,” asserting that there would be a “real conversation with state leaders” about “making sure that people with mental illness never touch a gun.”

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are on board, Scott said.

“The violence has to stop. We can never lose another child in this country to violence in a school,” Scott said.

When asked about gun control, Scott reiterated his contention that “someone who’s mentally ill shouldn’t have access to a gun.”

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, during the press conference, issued a statement advocating $100 million for “school hardening.”

“I am asking all of my legislative colleagues to support an appropriation of $100 million for mental health screening, counseling and training, as well as the hardening of our or schools in the K-12 budget, which Senator [Kathleen] Passidomo has already included in the Senate education budget. It is imperative that a portion of this allocation goes toward ensuring that we have the necessary number of armed resource officers at our schools across Florida. While currently, we have armed resource officers at a number of our schools coupled with other law enforcement personnel, we must identify where the gaps exist and immediately work to fill them,” Galvano asserted.

The Guardian notes that there have already been eight mass shootings at schools in 2018 that have resulted in injury or death.

Attorney General Pam Bondi vowed to continue to help the victims and families, including by compensating them for hospital bills and funeral expenses.

“You have nothing to worry about there,” Bondi said, going on to laud the “teamwork” between herself and Gov. Scott in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting.

“We’re praying for these families. We will continue to pray for these families, and that justice is done for the one that brutally, brutally murdered all of these students.”

Andrew Fay nomination clears Senate panel

Andrew Fay easily and quickly won a Senate panel’s confirmation vote on Tuesday to the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee unanimously cleared Fay for full Senate consideration.


The 34-year-old lawyer and Tampa native had been Special Counsel to Attorney General Pam Bondi and served as her Director of Legislative Affairs, Cabinet Affairs and Public Policy.

Gov. Rick Scott named him to the PSC, which regulates investor-owned utilities.

During the hearing, Fay alluded to his youth — “We must be representative of all bodies and generations. I am hopeful that the vision I can bring is different and beneficial” — and to his relative inexperience on energy issues.

He compared himself to a high school football player who carries around a play binder: “Mine hasn’t left my hands yet,” he said, adding, “The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn.”

Fay also acknowledged he had a “nerdy, techy viewpoint” and said his immediate concerns will be power restoration and electric grid security.

State, voting rights group disagree on how to handle clemency process

In response to a federal judge saying that the Florida’s voting rights restoration process is unconstitutional, the state’s legal team said Monday the state’s clemency board should fix its flaws — not the courts.

State Solicitor General Amit Agarwal argued that U.S. District Judge Mark Walker should not issue any corrective orders, saying “there is no reason to upend the state’s constitutional and statutory framework.”

Rather, the Board of Executive Clemency itself should come up with a system that meets constitutional muster.

Fair Election Legal Network, the group that sued the state for running a system that “hinders former felons from truly reentering society,” disagreed.

The national voting rights group said the court should order the state to restore the voting rights of former felons after “any waiting period of a specific duration of time” set forth by the state or the board.

Currently, that waiting period is five years after completing their sentences. Except for those convicted of murder or a sex offenses; they must wait seven years.

The legal teams of both groups filed their briefs with Walker, who had ordered them to submit briefs to find a remedy for the system’s deficiencies.

“An injunction requiring (the state) to affirmatively act to create a new vote-restoration procedure would be inappropriate,” the state argued.

Federal courts, it added, “cannot issue an order that is tantamount to saying ‘act right.’ ”

Scott has helped shape the current voter-restoration system which requires all felons to wait at least five years after they serve their sentences to apply to have their voting rights restored.

The clemency board that oversees a felon’s case consists of Scott and the three members of the Florida Cabinet—Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and state CFO Jimmy Patronis. The governor, however, does have sole power to reject an application.

It can take years for the board to hear a case and currently the state has a backlog of more than 10,000 cases, which could cost taxpayers $500,000 to fix next year if the Legislature approves it.

The state of Florida is home to about 1.5 million citizens who cannot cast a vote.

As the legal fight continues in court, Floridians will be able to cast their own ballot in November to decide whether ex-felons should have their voting rights automatically restored.

A citizen initiative to add a “Voting Restoration Amendment” to the state constitution needs 60 percent approval. If it passes, the amendment could have wide-ranging political implications in the nation’s largest swing state.

State appeals abortion waiting period

The state is appealing a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling that blocked a 2015 law aimed at requiring women to wait 24 hours before having abortions.

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office filed a notice late Thursday that it will appeal the Jan. 9 ruling by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, according to the Leon County courts website. The notice, as is common, does not detail the arguments the state will make to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Lewis’ ruling made permanent a temporary injunction granted by the Florida Supreme Court last year after a Gainesville abortion clinic challenged the law as a violation of privacy rights under the state Constitution. In his 10-page ruling, Lewis said the state failed to show there was a “compelling state interest” for the 24-hour waiting period and didn’t show that it was enacted in the “least restrictive” manner.

“The essential problem is that the language of the act — what’s in it and what’s not — belies the claimed compelling nature of the state interest being advanced, and demonstrates ambivalence, if not outright hostility, to the mandate that the least restrictive measures be utilized to advance that interest,” Lewis wrote.

Pam Bondi says Rick Scott deserves lion’s share of credit for Florida’s economic growth

If Rick Scott does run for the U.S. Senate this year, Florida’s rising economy will provide a critical talking point for his campaign.

But one question might be: how much credit does he deserve?

Well, all of it, at least according to Attorney General and fellow Republican Pam Bondi.

Scott and Bondi, were joined Thursday by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, where they held a Cabinet meeting at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center Pavillion — the traditional gathering on the opening day of the Florida State Fair.

In a formal address, Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, explained that Florida ended 2017 on a very positive note.

Nearly 205,000 private sector jobs were created in 2017, Proctor said, making for a total of 1.5 million jobs since Scott took office in January of 2011. Those numbers indicate that Scott more than doubled his “7-7-7” plan — which he campaigned on in 2010 —  when he pledged to add 700,000 jobs in seven years.

In Florida, unemployment continues to drop; currently, it’s at 3.7 percent, down from 5 percent a year ago.

Proctor said more than 185,000 people entered the job market in 2017 in Florida, a growth rate nearly four times the national average. There were 265,000 job openings across the state as of December, with registered nurses topping the list.

The number of jobs has grown by 25 percent since Scott took over, while the national average during the past seven years sits at 15 percent, Proctor said. Florida’s labor force growth rate since 2010 has more than doubled that of the rest of the nation, she added.

Those figures impressed Bondi, who followed up Proctor’s presentation by proclaiming that Scott deserved the lion’s share of the credit for the positive job numbers.

“We say that jobs have grown by 25 percent. That just doesn’t happen,” said Bondi, who was sitting next to Scott. “That happens because this man — every time I talk to him — he’s landing in a different state stealing businesses to bring them to Florida.”

“Governor, you have single-handedly done this for our state,” Bondi continued. “Thank you so much. You will never meet a harder working human being.”

No doubt the sound bite might play well for Scott if (or when) he becomes a candidate for Bill Nelson‘s Senate seat later this year

Nelson’s campaign declined an opportunity to comment.

Not that Scott needs the help.

Long considered one of the most unpopular governors in the nation, Scott’s poll numbers are rising when it counts — as he potentially faces voters in November.

A recent Morning Consult poll found the governor ending last year with a 58 percent approval rating; a University of North Florida survey shows Scott’s approval rating now stands at 63 percent.

Deflecting Bondi’s praise, Scott passed it on to the men and women who run businesses in Florida: “Business owners and people who take risk don’t get appreciated for what they do.”

Official Florida House photo

Frank White snags two more sheriff endorsements in AG race

Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White announced Thursday that a pair of county sheriffs had endorsed his campaign to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and Putnam County Sheriff Homer “Gator” Deloach added their names to the list of officials backing White in the four-way GOP primary for the Cabinet seat.

“I am proud to stand with Frank White because I know he will stand with Florida’s men and women in blue to enforce the rule of law. Frank has proven he will defend our conservative values and protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money,” Shoar said.

Shoar has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years and is currently in his fourth term as sheriff of the First Coast county.

“I am proud to offer my support along with Sheriffs across Florida in standing with conservative Frank White for Attorney General. Frank will be a staunch defender of our Second Amendment rights, will help law enforcement keep our families safe and will protect the constitution at all times,” Deloach said.

DeLoach started out with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office in 2001 and was elected sheriff in 2016.

The pair join the sitting sheriffs of Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties in endorsing White, who also got the nod from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a former Duval County sheriff.

“As momentum grows for our campaign, my proven record as a consistent conservative is resonating with folks from across the state and I am honored to have the support of these great Sheriffs who share my conservative values and commitment to both our constitution and the rule of law,” White said in a press release.

The freshman lawmaker faces former circuit court judge Ashley Moody, Dover state Rep. Ross Spano and Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant in the Republican Primary. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

At the end of 2017, White led in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000. Torrens has about $2,500 in the bank, while Shaw has about $41,000 he brought over from his House re-election campaign.

White’s total includes $1.5 million of his own money, while Fant has put $750,000 of his own cash into his campaign.

Florida Cabinet recognizes Mark Ober, David Gee in Tampa

After losing a bid for re-election in fall 2016, Mark Ober‘s career as Hillsborough County’s State Attorney didn’t end on his terms.

So during a Florida Cabinet meeting Thursday in Tampa, Ober took the opportunity to deliver a valedictory speech he was denied a year and a half earlier.

“I am absolutely overwhelmed to be in your company this morning because, in large part, of the high esteem that I hold for each one of you,” Ober said, speaking directly to Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

For over a decade, Ober and Bondi worked closely together in the State Attorney’s Office (2000-2010); Ober said she had “always been a shining star in my life and in my career.”

With friends and family members in attendance, Ober called the Cabinet resolution honoring him “the pinnacle of my career.”

A Republican, Ober was elected in 2000, facing only token Democratic opposition in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

While remaining the odds-on favorite to win in 2016, Ober faced a challenge from Democrat Andrew Warren, a former federal prosecutor running on a platform of criminal justice reform.

Soon, the race turned bitterly divisive, as Warren accused Ober’s office of fumbles in two separate sex crime cases, which put the incumbent on the defensive during the campaign’s final months.

Any enmity between the two seems forgotten, however, as Warren cheered Ober on as part of the audience at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center inside the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Also honored by the Cabinet Thursday was David Gee.

In September, Gee retired as Hillsborough County Sheriff, less than a year after winning re-election for a fourth term. He chose not to make any remarks.

As is tradition, the Cabinet held its monthly meeting on the first day of the Florida State Fair, which runs now through Feb. 19.

Official Florida House photo

In video, Frank White outlines themes of his Attorney General campaign

Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White has been in the Attorney General race for a few months, but formally introduced himself to voters in a video released Wednesday morning.

“I’ve been a consistent, principled conservative my entire life,” White says in the video. “Unafraid to stand up for our values and defend our way of life. As your next attorney general, I’ll keep up the fight.”

The freshman lawmaker says he’s in the AG race because Florida needs a “conservative watchdog looking out for our families and taking on those who would do us harm.”

The 2-minute-long video shows White with his wife, Stephanie, and sons Henry, Clayton and Wesley and also includes shots of the Republican lawmaker speaking to law enforcement officers and in front of his church, where he serves as a deacon.

The video also touts White’s conservative bona fides in the crowded race to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi, including his A+ rating from the NRA, pro-life stance and private sector experience.

“Some people running for office just talk the talk in campaign season, but as a lifelong conservative committed to defending our values, you’ll always know where I stand,” he said.

White faces former district court judge Ashley Moody, and fellow state Reps. Jay Fant and Ross Spano in the Republican Primary race. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

At the end of 2017, White led in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000.

White’s total includes $1.5 million of his own money, while Fant has put $750,000 of his own cash into his campaign.

Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Three more state attorneys endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody announced Tuesday that three state attorneys endorsed her bid to succeed Pam Bondi in 2018.

“As a former circuit court judge, the endorsement of these State Attorneys, many of whom have spent their lifetime dedicated to justice and the pursuit of justice for victims and their communities, is tremendous. I am honored to have their support and as part of our team. Together we will work to ensure the rule of law prevails and victims have a voice in the process,” Moody said.

The endorsements came in from 19th Circuit State Attorney Bruce Colton, 14th Circuit State Attorney Glenn Hess and 8th Circuit State Attorney William Cervone.

The trio join previous state attorney backers Phi Archer, Ed Brodsky, Brian Haas, Brad King, R.J. Larizza, Bernie McCabe and Dennis Ward, giving Moody the backing of half of Florida’s 20 state attorneys.

Moody has also picked up endorsements from Bondi and 33 Republican county sheriffs.

“I know firsthand how important it is we have an Attorney General who stands firm in support of the rule of law and knows what it takes to put criminals behind bars. To ensure we have criminals brought to justice, we must have an Attorney General who understands the law, has practiced in a courtroom, and has a strong record of defending our communities. Ashley Moody is the only candidate prepared to be our next Attorney General,” said Colton.

Hess added that the state needs “an experienced and tough Attorney General” and that Moody “has proven throughout her career that she is ready to lead our state as Florida’s Top Cop.”

Cervone echoed his colleague’s calls for an Attorney General with tough-on-crime experience.

“When it comes to the safety and security of Floridians we need an Attorney General who knows what it takes to combat crime and lock up violent criminals. Ashley Moody not only has a demonstrated history of accomplishing just that, but also has the temperament and tenacity to continue that fight in Tallahassee. I’m proud to endorse her as our next Attorney General,” he said.

Moody is running against state Reps. Jay Fant, Ross Spano and Frank White in the Republican Primary race. Competing for the Democratic nomination are Tampa Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens.

At the end of 2017, White led in fundraising with $1.95 million on hand between his campaign and committee accounts, followed by Moody with $1.2 million in the bank, Fant with just shy of $1 million and Spano with about $50,000.

White’s total includes $1.5 million of his own money, while Fant has put $750,000 of his own cash into his campaign.

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