Volume 1, Issue 28||
Friday, September 26, 2003|
Office of the Attorney General
PL-01, The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Message from Attorney General Charlie Crist
I was pleased to make two important announcement this week, both of them designed to protect Floridians as they carry out their everyday lives.
On Wednesday I announced that one of Florida’s leading consumer advocates has agreed to join the Attorney General’s Office. Jack Shreve recently retired after a quarter-century of outstanding service as Public Counsel, the official who serves as the public’s representative on utility regulation issues before the Public Service Commission.
Jack may very well be Florida’s foremost expert on how telephone and electric service rates are set, and it is wonderful to know that Florida citizens will continue to benefit from his knowledge, experience and dedication. Just how valuable is Jack to the public? Earlier this year, the Legislature issued a resolution crediting him with approximately $5 billion in rate reductions and $1 billion in refunds for Florida consumers over the course of his career.
As my Senior Special Counsel for Consumer Affairs, Jack will be asked to provide his insights on all consumer-related issues dealt with by the Attorney General’s Office. I particularly expect to seek his counsel on matters pertaining to public utilities and regulation, including issues pending before the PSC and the Legislature.
We are truly fortunate to have him working with us.
On Thursday, the Attorney General’s Office release an annual report that examines hate crimes in Florida. While we all can agree that even one crime motivated by hate is too many, I was encouraged to see that the number of hate-based offenses in 2002 dropped almost 9 percent from the previous year.
As I wrote in the report, few crimes are as despicable and small-minded as hate crimes. That is because each hate crime represents a person who saw nothing wrong with targeting another person simply because the target belonged to the “wrong” group — whether that group was defined by race, or religion, or national origin, or even age.
So it was heartening to see the reduction from the number of hate crimes reported in 2001, the year in which hate crimes had a brief surge in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Even though Florida law enforcement authorities reported more than 300 hate-based incident in 2002, there were still reasons for optimism. The actual number of reported hate crimes was almost the same number reported back in 1991, even though Florida’s population had grown by 23 percent over that same period. In addition, this year the Legislature passed important civil rights legislation, and it is my hope that this new law will help us create an atmosphere of understanding in which the anger and animosity behind hate crimes cannot thrive.
Florida’s strength lies in its diversity — economically, culturally, geographically. By taking a close look at hate crime incidents, we can move past the hate and become a state in which each citizen embraces that diversity.
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FLAG CASE - A Palm Beach County judge agreed with Attorney General Crist’s request to delay a foreclosure sale while an appeals court reviews a dispute over a Marine veteran’s right to fly an American flag from his flagpole. Crist has sided with homeowner George Andres, who wishes to fly his flag from a free-standing flagpole. A court previously ordered Andres to pay the association’s legal fees — almost $21,000 — and Andres faces possible foreclosure in order to pay the bill. A foreclosure sale had been scheduled for October 9, but the judge approved the Attorney General’s motion to put the sale on hold until Andres’ appeal is heard by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Reacting to the delay, Attorney General Crist told the Associated Press: “The idea that an ex-Marine wouldn’t be able to fly the American flag obviously is wrong.”
DEATH PENALTY APPEALS - At the urging of the Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the appeals of two murderers who are now on death row. In one case, the justices denied the appeal of Michael Griffin, who was convicted of killing Miami police officer Joseph Martin, who had pulled over Griffin and another man as they drove a stolen car after robbing a motel room in 1990. In the second case, the court upheld the murder conviction and death sentence of Fred Anderson Jr., who killed Mount Dora bank teller Heather Young and paralyzed Marisha Scott during a 1999 bank robbery.
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OPINIONS - Attorney General Crist issued two formal Attorney General's Opinions at the request of public officials who sought guidance on matters involving state law. The opinions were AGO 2003-43, requested by the Ocala city attorney, addressing the rights of law enforcement officers prior to being interrogated as part of a department investigation; and AGO 2003-44, requested by the chief of Ormond Beach Police Department, addressing the use of "go-peds" or motorized scooters on public roads and sidewalks.