Miami Herald crime writer Wanda DeMarzo tells us today about a "stunning" plea deal: The State Attorney's Office is dropping charges against Deputy Chris Thieman in the crime-reporting scandal in exchange for Thieman's testimony against higher-ups. Yeah, I suppose it's stunning. It also proves -- again -- that Michael Satz is completely incompetent. And it looks like more craven political maneuvering. Look, Satz has been on this case for years. He chose to go after the low-level deputies and scapegoat them. That's the way Satz always operates -- exploit the weak while kow-towing to the powerful. And now, with the feds breathing down his neck and after the first deputy his office tried was acquitted, Satz has suddenly found Jesus. Bullshit. The case is mangled beyond recognition, nobody is going to get convicted (at least on the state level), Broward County has once again proven to be a joke, and all the thank-you notes should be directed to the state attorney.
-- The Palm Beach Post's Mark Schwed tells a helluva good brain-bending lost-at-sea tale. George W. Bush even plays an unwitting role. Here's the guts of the story about the disappearance of Jim Trindade:
He was last seen on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 12, leading a caravan of three boats from Spanish Cay in the Bahamas, where his family and dozens of friends had gathered for the holidays. Trindade was skippering a new 38-foot Donzi with three powerful outboard engines bought by his friend Roger Gamblin after it was used in the upcoming movie Miami Vice. Trailing Trindade were Gamblin's son, Chris, 24, in a 35-foot Donzi, and Chris' friend, Brian Pratts, 23, in a 22-foot Angler. Roger Gamblin was still at Spanish Cay with about eight others.
About 50 miles from home, at 2:19 p.m., Pratts' boat experienced mechanical trouble. He couldn't reach Gamblin on the radio, but he did hail Trindade.
"I'll slow down," the 54-year-old Trindade told Pratt. "I'll idle along and wait for you."
Trindade's boat was out of sight, thought to be 5 miles ahead of the other two boaters.
Twenty-nine minutes after Pratts' radio contact with Trindade, the radio crackled again: "U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard." Pratts and Gamblin say it was Jimmy's voice.
Later, other boaters taking part in a regatta reported hearing a man radio: "Mayday. Mayday. Mayday" — the international distress signal.
Pratts and Gamblin alerted the Coast Guard that their friend was missing, and it immediately launched a massive search involving a jet, helicopters and boats. West Palm Beach police scoured the coastline from Lantana to Palm Beach Yacht Club. Roger Gamblin hired two private planes to join the search, but they couldn't take off for hours because President Bush was visiting West Palm Beach that day, and all flights were grounded until Air Force One left the area.
Finally, at 1:09 a.m. — almost 11 hours after Trindade's radio call to Pratts — a Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon jet spotted the Donzi, two of three engines idling, boat spinning in a circle, no one on board. It was about 38 miles off the St. Lucie County coast.
There are many theories.
Was he ejected after hitting a floating log or a turtle while running his boat at 50 mph? Did he have a heart attack? Did drug-runners or pirates commandeer his vessel? Or did he carry out an elaborate ruse to run away from what everyone else believes was a beautiful life?
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-- Speaking of the Palm Beach Post, I neglected for a long while to mention that Kevin D. Thompson is back after his domestic violence arrest. The lesson: Post reporters are allowed to rough up their estranged wives but if they try to buy crack cocaine, they're through. Not that I think Thompson should have been fired, at least not for the arrest. He should be fired for ending a blog post about Ted Koppel's fucking hair with a "Check ya later!"
-- More Post stuff: Antigone Barton has an hilarious story about a simple love story between a Boca Raton police officer and her taser gun. When Sgt. Shannon Wendlick isn't leading the department in tasering suspects, she's zapping her fellow officers.
And, finally, Washington correspondent Larry Lipman informs us in an enterprising report that Katherine Harris is lying -- or, um, has been mistaken -- about her record on Capitol Hill in her run for U.S. Senate. Whoda thunk? She's been saying she supported legislation called the American Dream Downpayment Act that has helped 4.5 million people buy homes. Turns out the actual figure is, oh, 4.487 million people fewer than, or 13,000. Yeah. Oops.