Florida bans all restaurant dining; tribe closes casinos
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned all onsite dining at restaurants statewide and the Seminole Tribe has closed its casinos. DeSantis on Friday also banned all nonemergency medical and dental procedures. The announcements are the latest coronavirus-related closures affecting a state that is heavily dependent on tourism and consumer spending. Restaurants will be allowed to sell food for take-out and delivery. At the Seminoles' Hard Rock Casino near Fort Lauderdale, the mood was somber Friday as the often packed gambling den was less than half full. Half the slot machines were closed to promote social distancing and some players wore gloves. Florida now has more than 560 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nine deaths.
'New football journey': Tom Brady signs with Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady has signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 42-year-old quarterback who spent the first 20 years of his career with the New England Patriots announced he’s “starting a new football journey” in an Instagram post and thanked the Bucs for the opportunity. The deal guarantees $50 million and includes a $10 million signing bonus and $15 million salary for 2020. The signing comes three days after Brady announced on social media that he would not return to New England, ending his historic run with the Patriots.
LEFT ON SCHOOL BUS
Family of boy left on school bus gets $200,000 settlement
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — The family of a 7-year-old autistic boy who was left on a Florida school bus for more than five hours in 2015 will receive $200,000 from Palm Beach County public schools. The Palm Beach Post reports the school board approved the payment to the boy's parents on Wednesday. The boy boarded the bus Oct. 12, 2015, to head to school. Officials say he remained on board even after the driver returned to the bus depot. A mechanic found him. The child didn't require medical treatment but his parents sued for negligence. The driver and aide were arrested on child neglect charges.
Remains of missing Colorado boy found in Florida
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Authorities say human remains found in Florida are believed to be those of a Colorado boy reported missing by his stepmother, who was later arrested and charged with his death. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said Friday the remains of 11-year-old Gannon Stauch were found in Pace, on the Florida Panhandle. Investigators are asking for information if anyone saw the boy's stepmother, Letecia Stauch, in Pace or nearby Pensacola between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5. Stauch reported Gannon missing Jan. 27, saying he never returned after leaving to go to a friend’s house.
FATAL DOMESTIC SHOOTING
Deputies: Man kills girlfriend, himself
POINCIANA, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a Florida man suspected of killing his girlfriend fatally shot himself following a standoff with deputies. The Polk County Sheriff's Office says 38-year-old Jason Ramirez Comas told the girlfriend's mother to take two young girls from the home in Poinciana. Deputies then responded early Thursday and made contact with Ramirez Comas. He told them he shot and killed his girlfriend and that he would kill himself if they entered. A SWAT team then responded and spent several hours trying to convince Ramirez Comas to surrender. They eventually entered the home and found Ramirez Comas and girlfriend dead.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-CHANCELLOR
Mizzou chancellor tapped for University of Central Florida
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor Alexander Cartwright has been tapped to be president of the University of Central Florida. The University of Central Florida's Board of Trustees on Friday voted unanimously for Cartwright. Florida's Board of Governors still needs to approve the university's decision. Florida's university oversight board is set to meet Wednesday. Cartwright started at the University of Missouri's flagship campus in 2017. He assumed leadership after protests over racial concerns at the Columbia campus prompted top administrators to resign.
Amid coronavirus threat, Florida lawmakers OK $93.2B budget
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, Florida lawmakers have brought their 2020 session to a close. Before adjourning on Thursday afternoon, the Legislature approved a $93.2 billion budget that is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. The budget document includes $500 million in new spending to boost the minimum pay of new teachers, 3% raises for state workers and $300 million in extra reserves to help address the economic hardship wrought by the outbreak. The budget also includes $25 million requested by the governor for direct costs to contain the virus. Already there's talk about a special session if the money runs short.
FLORIDA LEGISLATURE-2020 SESSION
In 66 days, Florida goes from optimism to uncertainty
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature ended its annual session with an air of uncertainty. The mood Thursday was a far cry from the optimism lawmakers had 66 days earlier when they arrived in Tallahassee. The House and Senate unanimously approved the state's $93.2 billion budget on Thursday, six days after they were originally scheduled to go home. Other bills passed during the session include measures restricting abortion, raising teacher salaries and fighting algae.
CENTRAL PARK FIVE-PROSECUTOR
Former prosecutor sues Netflix over Central Park 5 series
NEW YORK (AP) — Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein has sued Netflix and director Ava DuVernay over her portrayal in the streaming service's miniseries about the Central Park Five case. Fairstein claims in the lawsuit that the four-part series “When They See Us” defamed her by portraying her as a “racist, unethical villain.” Fairstein became a best-selling crime author after retiring from the Manhattan district attorney's office. She was dropped by her publisher and resigned from several boards she served on after “When They See Us” debuted last year. Netflix calls Fairstein’s lawsuit “frivolous." A message seeking comment was emailed to a representative for DuVernay.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-INMATES RELEASED
Florida sheriff releases 164 inmates to curb spread of virus