Legislature agrees two former PBC students can be paid for horrific injuries

Two former Palm Beach County high school students – one who was horrifically injured when a tire exploded in his shop class at Seminole Ridge High School – are poised to get money from the School Board to pay for their injuries.

Dustin Reinhardt holds his dog Deedee while visiting his home in Loxahatchee in 2014. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In a lopsided vote of 117-2, the Florida House on Wednesday gave the final nod to an unusual bill that directs the School Board to pay Dustin Reinhardt $4.7 million for injuries he sustained in the 2013 explosion in his auto shop class. Now 20 and living in an assisted living facility, Reinhardt lost an eye and suffered severe brain damage in the accident. He has already received $300,000 from the school district.

The bill also allows the School Board to pay $790,000 to Altavious Carter, who broke his neck in a 2005 traffic accident caused by a school bus driver. Carter, now 25, was a 14-year-old freshman basketball standout at the former Summit Christian School when the crash occurred.

Altavious “Tae” Carter before he enrolled in Eckerd College in St. Petersburg in 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Since the Florida Senate passed the measure 31-5 on Monday, the bill is  headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval.

In Florida, the Legislature must approve any payments over $300,000 before government agencies can pay people who are injured by wrongdoing. The measures are known as claims bills.

In addition to awarding money to the two young men, the Legislature also ordered the Florida Department of Children & Families to pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona. He was was found near death in a van along Interstate 95 in Lake Worth in 2011. Both he and his 10-year-old twin sister, Nubia, had been sprayed with pesticides. Nubia Barahona didn’t survive.

Officials at DCF admitted ignoring years of evidence of severe abuse and neglect at the children’s Miami home. The adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, are awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

Former Florida Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, a lawyer who now works as a lobbyist, persuaded the legislature to combine what had been two separate bills into one measure for Reinhardt and Carter. In his 25 years of watching the legislature, he said he has never seen it combine two claims bills. Without it, he said it is likely Carter, who in 2010 was awarded $1 million for his injuries by a Palm Beach County jury, would have been forced to wait yet another year.

Attorney Brian Denney, who represented Carter, said he was pleased the bill passed both chambers. But, having waited seven years, he said he wasn’t celebrating until Scott’s signature is affixed to the measure.

Carter, who also played at Grandview Prep, earned a college scholarship to play basketball. But, medical experts said, the injuries he suffered will force him to have additional surgery as he ages.

With two days left in the legislative session, a former Wellington youth, identified only has C.H.M, is still waiting to see if the legislature will pass a bill that would allow him to recover $5 million from DCF. A jury in 2013 agreed the state child welfare agency was negligent when it failed to warn his parents that a foster child they brought into their home was a predator.

The money is to help C.H.M. deal with psychological problems he suffers as a result of being sexually assaulted by the foster child, also the victim of horrific abuse.

This year appears to be a good ones for claims bills. In some recent legislative session, none have been approved.

 

Attorney for Anthony Simpson wants off case, says he was duped

When attorneys tell judges they want off a case, they routinely cite “irreconcilable differences,” which typically means they haven’t been paid.

 

But, when a Jupiter attorney decided he no longer wanted to represent former North Palm Beach jeweler Anthony Simpson, he felt compelled to apologize to the judge and lawyers representing a New Jersey woman who is trying to evict Simpson from his home. Court records show he deeded it to her in 2015 in exchange for $450,000.

“My credibility is all I have and I have been lied to repeatedly by (Simpson),” attorney David Kuschel wrote in a motion filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court earlier this month. “I did not become an attorney to abuse the judicial system or to lie to other members of the Florida Bar and the Court.”

Like others who have dealt with the former owner of Shamrock Jewelers on Northlake Boulevard, Kuschel said he believed Simpson when he told him he had “a financial backer.” Simpson promised repeatedly that the anonymous benefactor would give him $600,000 to settle the eviction lawsuit filed against him by Jodi Monell, as trustee of two family-owned trusts in Colts Neck, N.J., Kuschel wrote.

Kuschel said he met with people who were interested in buying Simpson’s home but that they didn’t understand the urgency of doing so. “Apparently, (Simpson) also misrepresented facts to the financial backers,” he wrote.

“The undersigned counsel does not know what else he can do, hence withdrawing from this action is my best course of action,” he wrote in the request.

In 2015, Simpson repeatedly told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Erik Kimball he had “an angel” who would repay those who invested roughly $12 million in Rollaguard, a company he formed to produce a high-tech brief case. When the anonymous benefactor never appeared, Kimball put a bankruptcy trustee in charge of Rollaguard and Shamrock, who closed them both.

Trustee Robert Furr has filed dozens of lawsuits trying to recover millions from those who made money on both Shamrock and Rollaguard at the expense of others. Simpson also faces charges in Louisiana for writing bad checks to a diamond broker there.

Circuit Judge Edward Artau has scheduled a hearing on April 17 on Monell’s request to order Simpson out of his Oyster Road home.

Boca attorney again asks court to declare Trump mentally unfit

A Boca Raton probate and guardianship lawyer has renewed his efforts to have Donald Trump declared mentally unfit to serve as president of the United States.

Donald Trump
New U.S. President Donald Trump

Attorney James Herb said Trump’s actions over the last 10 days – fighting over the size of the crowd at his inauguration, insisting he really won the popular vote and inciting international turmoil with an immigration ban – reinforce his earlier claims that part-time Palm Beach resident is delusional.

A similar guardianship petition Herb filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in the run-up to the November election was thrown out by Circuit Judge Jaimie Goodman. As a state court judge, Goodman said he had no power to block Trump’s candidacy or remove him from office. Further, he ruled, Herb didn’t have a relationship with Trump that would allow him to ask that the real estate tycoon be declared incompetent.

Herb said he has addressed those legal obstacles in a new petition filed Monday. “I did not have a relationship with him but I now do because he’s my president,” Herb said.

Further, he said, he’s not asking a judge to remove Trump from office. That would be done in accordance with a process outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Herb said he is simply asking a judge to appoint a team of experts to evaluate the new chief executive’s mental health. If Trump is found incompetent by the three-person panel, the judge could then limit his activities.

In the petition, Herb is asking that Trump be barred from “seeking or retaining employment.” In an asterisks, he notes that he is asking Trump be prohibited from “retaining employment as President of the United States.” If a judge agrees to the limitation, the order would be forwarded to federal officials capable of removing him from office.

As he did in the previous petition, Herb claims Trump exhibits signs of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder. Both are recognized as mental illnesses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Since taking office, Trump has also exhibited signs of being delusional, Herb wrote.

Herb, who was criticized as a publicity-hound after filing the first petition in October, said his actions aren’t part of some self-serving publicity stunt. A longtime guardianship and probate lawyer, he said his practice is now primarily limited to wills and trusts.

“I’m not interested in getting business. I have plenty of business,” he said.

His goal, he said, is much more far-reaching. “I’m trying to save the world,” he said.

He is not alone in his suspicion that Trump is mentally unfit to be president. A group calling itself “We The People,” on Sunday started an online petition to “Demand Congress Require an Independent Expert Panel Determine the President’s Psychiatric Stability to Protect America.” If they get 99,999 signatures by Feb. 28, the White House by law has to respond.

 

Girlfriend of murdered FAU student tearfully testifies

Through tears, the longtime girlfriend of slain Florida Atlantic University student Nicholas Acosta on Tuesday haltingly described the violence that erupted seconds after she opened the door of her Boca Raton apartment for what was suppose to be a routine drug deal.

Donovan Henry
Donovan Henry shortly after his arrest. His hair has been cut short for the trial.

While Kayla Bartosiewicz had difficulty articulating exactly what happened in the horror-filled seconds, she firmly identified 19-year-old Donovan Henry as the young man she let in on December 29, 2015, believing the fellow student simply wanted to buy some marijuana from her boyfriend. However, minutes after Henry and a younger man came into the apartment in University Park, three other men Bartosiewicz said she didn’t know barged in.

After screaming at them to, “Get on the ground,” one of the men shot Acosta twice, killing him, she testified.

Nicholas Max Acosta
Nicholas Max Acosta

Attorney Scott Skier, who represents Henry, who is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and armed burglary, hasn’t yet given his opening statements in which he explains to jurors Henry’s version of events. But, while questioning Bartosiewicz, Skier offered hints of his defense strategy. He indicated that he will argue that Henry had no plans to kill Acosta. In court papers, he has said Alexander Gillis, who police say was the shooter, masterminded the murder without Henry’s knowledge. Gillis and Adonis Gillis are awaiting trial.

A freshman, majoring in engineering and playing on FAU’s soccer team, Henry was friends with Acosta, Skier insisted. But, while Bartosiewicz acknowledged that both she and Acosta had seen Henry at a party and that Henry had bought pot from Acosta at least three times before, she rejected Skier’s intimation that the two were friends.

She firmly answered “no” when Skier asked whether Henry and Acosta had embraced when he entered the apartment. “That didn’t happen,” she said. But, she said, Acosta knew Henry well enough to give him the electronic code so he could enter the apartment.

Under questioning by Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, she also acknowledged that she initially lied to police about Acosta’s illicit business and didn’t tell them that the intruders stole a quarter-pound bag of pot on their way out.

“I didn’t want Nick to be remembered that way,” she said. “Because he was so much more than that.”

The star witness is expected to be Rodrick Woods, who was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder after agreeing to testify against the others.

The trial is expected to wrap up Friday or Monday.

 

 

Trump officially drops lawsuit against PBC over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago

Donald Trump has filed paperwork, confirming his plans to drop his $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

“It’s officially over!” County Attorney Denise Nieman wrote county commissioners on Wednesday.

While the president-elect’s attorneys had called her on Monday, saying they no longer planned to pursue the nearly 2-year-old lawsuit, they didn’t file necessary court papers until Wednesday.

In a two-sentence notice, Trump’s attorneys John Marion and Bruce Rogow, a noted constitutional law expert, wrote that they were voluntarily dismissing the suit “with prejudice.” Neither the county nor Trump, they wrote, would seek court costs or attorneys fees in connection with the abandoned litigation.

It was the third lawsuit Trump filed against the county, claiming jets from Palm Beach International Airport were causing irreparable damage to the historic club, built in the 1920s by cereal heiress Margaret Merriweather Post and her then husband E.F. Hutton. The first lawsuit, filed in 1995, was settled and a second one was dismissed by a Palm Beach County circuit judge.

Airports Director Bruce Pelly said the county has spent more than $800,000 fighting Trump in court.

Trump officially drops lawsuit against PBC over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago

Donald Trump has filed paperwork, confirming his plans to drop his $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

“It’s officially over!” County Attorney Denise Nieman wrote county commissioners on Wednesday.

While the president-elect’s attorneys had called her on Monday, saying they no longer planned to pursue the nearly 2-year-old lawsuit, they didn’t file necessary court papers until Wednesday.

It was the third lawsuit Trump filed against the county, claiming jets from Palm Beach International Airport were causing irreparable damage to the historic club, built in the 1920s by cereal heiress Margaret Merriweather Post and her then husband E.F. Hutton. The first lawsuit, filed in 1995, was settled and a second one was dismissed by a Palm Beach County circuit judge.

Airports Director Bruce Pelly said the county has spent more than $800,000 fighting Trump in court.

Deputy who guarded John Goodman gets go-ahead in suit against PBSO

A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy can proceed with her lawsuit, claiming she was unfairly disciplined by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for simply telling the truth about a strange incident involving now-imprisoned Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw at the site of a deputy-involved shooting that critically injured a person Thursday morning, July 30, 2015, on Lakewood Road near South Military Trail in Palm Springs. PBSO said a deputy shot a person at 5:15 a.m. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected Bradshaw’s request to toss out the lawsuit filed by Deputy Bridgette Bott. She was  one of Goodman’s security guards when he was on house arrest before he was convicted a second time of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson.

ID Photo
ID Photo

Bradshaw argued that Bott should have sought administrative relief before filing a lawsuit. The appeals court ruled that none was available.

In a lawsuit filed by attorney Sid Garcia, Bott claims she was unfairly docked 40 hours pay when she didn’t side with other deputies who said Goodman in 2012 tried to disable his ankle monitor while on house arrest.  In addition, she claims she was banned from the lucrative security detail that Goodman was forced to bankroll as a condition of being allowed to stay out of jail.

Ultimately, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath ruled that there was insufficient evidence that Goodman had tried to break the monitor and allowed him to remain on house arrest. Goodman, heir to a Texas air conditioning and heating business, is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Accused serial rapist found guilty by PBC jury in 2009 attack near Palm Springs

A Palm Beach County jury on Thursday found accused serial rapist Baltazar Gabriel Delgado-Ros guilty of sexual battery with a deadly weapon and burglary in the 2009 rape of a suburban Lake Worth woman, charges that could send the 30-year-old former Lake Worth man to prison for two life terms.

Balatazar Gabriel Delgado Ros appears in court Wednesday Morning. Authorities believe Balatazar Gabriel Delgado Ros, 28, to be a serial rapist who attacked five women from Jupiter to Lake Worth. The first attack was in 2009, the last was reported in early October of 2011. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Balatazar Gabriel Delgado Ros appears in court in 2014 (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The verdict, that brought tears of relief to his 35-year-old victim, came after roughly two hours of deliberation over two days following a two-day trial.

“I am so thankful to the jurors for seeing the truth in this case and helping me finally get justice,” the woman, who is not being identified due to the nature of the attack, said after the verdict. “After seven years we can finally start to heal and put this behind us.”

In a written statement she read to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer, she said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and still suffers panic attacks. She asked the judge to give Delgado-Ros the maximum punishment when he is sentenced on Jan. 10.

“I don’t want him to ever have the chance to hurt another woman,” she said. “No one should have to go through what I did.”

However, four other woman from Jupiter to Lake Worth claim they too were raped by Delgado-Ros from 2009-2011 before he was arrested in his native Guatemala in 2014 and brought back here to stand trial. He is to be tried in February in connection with one of the other attacks.

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Maurissa Jones, sought to persuade the jury that he did not break into the woman’s house near Palm Springs and rape her. Instead, she argued, he was friends with the woman’s then-husband, who was in jail at the time awaiting deportation, and the sex was consensual.

Check back for further updates.

Judge refuses to delay Dalia Dippolito’s trial – set for Dec. 1

While allowing one attorney to get off the case, a Palm Beach County judge on Thursday refused to delay Dalia Dippolito’s Dec. 1 murder-for-hire trial to allow another lawyer to get up to speed about the seven-year-old case.

Dalia Dippolito cries as she is cross-examined in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The 33-year-old Dippolito is facing a May retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Dalia Dippolito cries while testifying at a hearing in February. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

In a brief hearing, Judge Glenn Kelley granted Miami attorney Mark Eiglarsh’s request to withdraw as one of Dippolito’s attorneys. Eiglarsh cited irreconcilable differences, explaining that to say more could embarrass Dippolito.

Minutes later, Kelley denied attorney Greg Rosenfeld’s request to push Dippolito’s trial back to early next year. “This case has been pending for seven years. It’s been two years since it came back from the (appeals court),” Kelley said. He noted that Dippolito has chewed through “two or three sets of attorneys” yet California atttorney Brian Claypool has been her lead attorney since July 2015. There is no reason for a further delay, he said.

The 33-year-old Boynton Beach woman was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for hiring a hitman in 2009 to kill her new husband. The “hitman” turned out to be a Boynton Beach cop. She won a new trial in 2014 when the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that jurors should have been interviewed individually about how much they knew about the case that became an internet sensation when her tearful – some say insincere – reaction to the false news of her husband’s death went viral. Dippolito, who was silent during the hearing, remains on house arrest.

 

Boca attorney asks PBC judge to declare Trump incompetent

Claiming he is worried about the future of the country, a longtime Boca Raton guardianship attorney has filed a petition in Palm Beach County Circuit Court asking a judge to declare Donald Trump mentally incapable of seeking the presidency.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

In the “petition to determine incapacity” filed last week, attorney James Herb claims the GOP presidential nominee exhibits signs of histrionic and narcissistic personality disorder – both recognized mental health ills listed in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” of the American Psychiatric Association.

Herb is asking judge to order an examination of Trump to determine if he is capable of holding any job. Herb isn’t asking Trump to be stripped of any rights that are often taken away from those who are deemed incapacitated, such as the right to vote, file lawsuits, drive or travel. Citing dozens of statements Trump has made over the last year, Herb claims the part-time Palm Beach resident has illustrated he is incompetent.

“This is for Mr. Trump’s benefit. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to seek this kind of employment” said Herb, insisting he is acting alone without any encouragement from Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, or any Democratic groups.

He said he is also acting to protect himself and others. “I’m scared sh–less for myself and everyone in Palm Beach County, the state, the United States and the world,” Herb said.

Florida law gives any “adult person” the right to question someone’s competency, said West Palm Beach guardianship attorney John Morrissey, who is not involved in Herb’s quest. A judge will appoint an attorney to represent Trump. The attorney will alert Trump that the petition has been filed against him.

Once Trump has been properly informed that his mental fitness is in question, a three-person examining committee – generally composed of a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a lay person – will meet with Trump to determine if Herb”s claims are justified. Trump, of course, can contest any claim that he is incompetent to hold a job much less become the leader of the free world.

However, Boca Raton guardianship attorney Edward Shipe said he doubted it would go that far. While acknowledging that case law isn’t clear-cut, he said the guardianship statute requires anyone filing such a petition to explain their relationship with the person they claim is incompetent – something Herb failed to do. He said that is a fatal flaw.

“It can’t just be, ‘I’m sitting here watching TV, I don’t like him and I’m going to have him declared incompetent. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

If it was that easy, courts would be clogged with petitions, Shipe said. Trump supporters could file a similar petition against Clinton. Warring neighbors could use it for revenge.

While giving Herb an “A for a publicity stunt,” he predicted a judge will throw out the petition. Further, he said, Herb may regret going after Trump in such an unconventional manner.

Under the state’s guardianship laws, the target of a frivolous petition can demand that the person who filed it be forced to pay his attorneys fees and court costs. “I fear that Mr. Trump with his litigious history may make Mr. Herb’s life hell,” Shipe said.