By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
On the morning of Monday, April 6, an orderly in blue scrubs rolls a wheelchair-bound Kent Billie into the Broward County Courthouse just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Billie's crumpled outfit consists of a blue-striped, buttoned-down shirt tucked into pajama pants and puffy socks under rubber sandals. His left pants leg is rolled up to accommodate a heavy brace screwed into his gauzed shin. His hair sticks up wildly, and the goatee he sported in an old mug shot has been shaven. He's accompanied by two older female relatives wearing bright dresses. Even with tattoos peeking out from the edges of his clothing, the 145-pound, five-foot-five, 20-year-old looks like a sickly pediatric patient.
His attorney, Kathryn Meyers, steps in like a blocking linebacker to shield her client from questions. "Would you just allow him to speak to his lawyer?" she demands.
All four young men involved in the accident with Tatiana Furry have been charged with crimes while driving, none of them related to the January 21 incident.
Near 9 p.m. Saturday, November 8, 2008, just over two months before the fatal accident, Billie was driving 71 mph in a 50-mph zone on Route 27, according to a police report. Travis Osceola was in the passenger seat. When Pembroke Pines police officer Scott Kushi pulled over the gray, 2008 Ford SUV, he smelled marijuana, and Billie handed over a five-gram bag of "suspect cannabis," according to the report. Kushi also turned up "one gram of suspect cocaine" in Billie's right pants pocket. "Billie advised," continues the report, "that he had purchased the cannabis for $100 and the cocaine for $50." The cop also discovered an open bottle of Jack Daniels in the vehicle. And Osceola was arrested too, for "5 grams of suspect cannabis," Officer Kushi found on him.
According to a plea deal reached in April, Billie's charges will be dropped if he completes a two-year program including abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Osceola's pot-possession charge will be similarly forgiven.
Then there's Clifton Huggins, who in October 2007 was clocked by a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea zooming through a 40-mph zone at 70 in his silver 2006 Jeep SUV without a driver's license, according to police documents. He was then 16 years old. Less than a month later, his driving privileges were suspended for six months after he was pulled over in Hillsborough County on a charge of driving recklessly with a blood-alcohol content over the limit, according to court records. In May 2008, a judge revoked his license indefinitely after he failed to appear in Miami-Dade court for allegedly making an improper U-turn and "knowingly" driving without a license.
In June 2008, Jared Tiger, driving a black 2008 Ford Explorer, was pulled over by a Miami-Dade officer who claimed Tiger was driving 61 mph in a 45-mph zone as he traveled east on Tamiami Trail a few miles past the casino. The cop detected a "strong smell of marijuana" and saw a joint on the console, according to a police report. When ordered to step out of the SUV, Tiger "became aggressive... clos[ing] his first" and yelling " 'What? What you say?' " He was cuffed and charged with possession of cannabis and resisting an officer, but the charges were dropped after Tiger completed a pretrial intervention program in February of this year.
Efforts to contact the young men on their cell phones, via visits to their homes, or through online correspondence have proven fruitless. They live just outside Miccosukee Village in the rural town of Ochopee, where the tribe members' houses are often gaudy affairs, expansive and columned. High-priced toys like new SUVs and sports cars, airboats, and golf carts for inter-reservation travel litter the lawns. Shared casino revenue from the Miccosukee Resort has made the citizenry rich: The $75 million-plus it brings in annually is split among tribe members.
When a New Times reporter knocked on the front door of Jared Tiger's slate-gray home, the lanky goateed young man, who stands five-foot-five and weighs 130 pounds, answered. Tattoos on his neck bear his initials and the word Shotgun in delicate script. He winced against the sunlight. "Yeah, I don't want to discuss anything," he said.
Asked if he was injured in the accident, Tiger answered "No, not much" before he shut the door.
About 7 p.m. on the chilly, clear night of February 18, Thomas Cypress, Chairman Billy Cypress' 54-year-old brother, was driving west along Tamiami Trail when his silver 2000 Toyota Tundra slammed into a red Chevrolet coupe traveling the other way. The driver and passenger of the Chevy, Robert and Paulette Kirkpatrick, retired husband-and-wife schoolteachers from Maryland on their way home from an arts festival in Naples, were both dead before ambulances arrived. The accident was less than a month after Furry's, its location less than a mile west.
Cypress was in the wrong lane as he tried to pass another car, according to a police report. He had a case of Budweiser beside him, and his blood-alcohol content was .249, cops say, more than three times the legal limit. He had been convicted of three previous DUIs and was driving with a suspended license.
After the accident, Will Furry was uncharacteristically irate. "They're killing people; they're killing people," he declared incredulously. "In one month, they've killed three people!"