The tragic story of Josh Stein: A sick tortoise, an urge to help and a fatal trip through Broward’s Felony Mental Health Court

Josh Stein, a mentally troubled man of 38, died of an apparent accidental drug overdose the day after Christmas.  Broward’s elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein, says Stein’s death can be traced to anxiety and stress caused by “cattle car justice” meted out in Broward’s Felony Mental Health Court. In a letter last week to Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, Finkelstein chronicled Stein’s journey through the system after his burglary arrest in July 2013 for an ill advised taking, without permission, of a sickly red-footed tortoise that Stein wanted to nurse back to health. Finkelstein, who helped establish the specialized court to protect the mentally disabled in 2003, now says Felony Mental Health Court is a failure that must be shut down. 

Josh Stein

Josh Stein

Dear Chief Judge Weinstein,

Josh Stein is dead. A 38-year-old man has been forever silenced. His mother and father will never again see his smile, hear his laugh or hold and hug him. Their only son is lost forever. Now they are left with only pictures and memories.

He died a victim of Broward County’s Felony Mental Health Court’s callous, misguided treatment of the mentally ill. (more…)

Humana facing new federal scrutiny over private Medicare plans

By Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity 

The entrance to Humana headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky

The entrance to Humana headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky

Giant health insurer Humana, Inc. faces new scrutiny from the Justice Department over allegations it has overcharged the government by claiming some elderly patients enrolled in its popular Medicare plans are sicker than they actually are.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based company disclosed the Justice Department’s recent civil “information request” in an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb. 18. The company noted that it is cooperating with authorities. (more…)

Town’s class action RICO lawsuit says Florida public records law misused to extort settlements

By Dan Moffett, The Coastal Star 

Martin O'Boyle, left, and Christopher O'Hare

Martin O’Boyle, left, and Christopher O’Hare

Town of Gulf Stream in South Palm Beach County has rolled out the heavy artillery in its legal war against residents Martin O’Boyle and Christopher O’Hare, filing a class action RICO lawsuit Feb. 12 in U.S. District Court.

The 48-page federal complaint alleges that the two men engaged in a conspiracy to exploit the state’s public record laws and extort settlements from the town and other municipalities and organizations around the state. (more…)

Federal highway agency takes a hit over safety report on electronic billboards

By Myron Levin, FairWarning

Photo: Scenic America

Photo: Scenic America

Why did the billboard cross the road?

It sounds like the opening line of a corny joke, but it’s actually a question raised by a baffling glitch in a Federal Highway Administration study on the safety of electronic billboards. Billboards that seem magically to have moved from one side of the highway to the other are part of a detailed critique by a former FHWA researcher, who says the federal report is so badly flawed that no one should rely on its conclusions. (more…)

Welcome to Florida Bulldog; News you need to know

To Our Readers: bulldog221x225

Broward Bulldog has a new name, Florida Bulldog.

The change recognizes what you already know – that the Bulldog’s brand of nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog news coverage often extends beyond Broward County. (more…)

Florida homeowners facing foreclosure catch a break in courts

By Alison Fitzgerald, Center for Public Integrity 

Lawyers wait to sign in for foreclosure hearings at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach in July. Photo: Alison Fitzgerald/Center for Public Integrity

Lawyers wait to sign in for foreclosure hearings at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach in July. Photo: Alison Fitzgerald/Center for Public Integrity

Florida homeowners may soon find a more friendly reception in the state’s courtrooms after a state Supreme Court panel found that some judicial practices designed to speed up foreclosure cases may be improper.

The Court’s Local Rules Advisory Committee said last week that a judge’s order in Palm Beach County that allows banks to defeat homeowners’ motions to fight foreclosures in court simply by ignoring them went beyond the judge’s authority. The committee referred the rule to the state Supreme Court for review. (more…)

Timeline: The Tortured History of the Senate’s Torture Report

By Kara Bradeisky and Sisi Wei, ProPublica 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Ca., outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Ca., outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee

The Senate began investigating the CIA’s detainee program nearly six years ago. It completed a draft of its report two years ago. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the report’s blistering executive summary. (The full report remains classified.) What took so long? It’s a tale of White House indecisiveness, Republican opposition, and CIA snooping. (more…)

Broward’s criminal justice system failing mentally ill, too costly

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, left, and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, left, and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Editors Note:
Last month, BrowardBulldog.org  published the story of Broward’s “Forgotten Soldier” – a mentally ill ex-Marine in his late fifties whose journey through the county’s long broken mental health system was marred by illegal confinement and a lack of appropriate care.

The compelling story of the Forgotten Soldier was written by Owen McNamee and Douglas Brawley, two assistant public defenders who represent him. Last week, their boss, elected Broward Public Defender wrote to Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein to compare the treatment of the mentally ill by the criminal justice systems of Broward and Miami-Dade. Finkelstein concluded that Broward’s mental health system is backwards, cruel and unnecessarily costly.

“We need to get back on track and Miami-Dade has provided a successful model to follow,” Finkelstein said. Here is Finkelstein’s November 19 letter to Weinstein: (more…)

They say “Drink Responsibly,” but what does it mean?

By Stuart Silverstein, FairWarning drinkresponsibly

The “drink responsibly” or “enjoy in moderation” messages tucked into liquor and beer ads don’t impress Jennifer Romo.

“Nobody actually takes that seriously,” said Romo, a 21-year-old political science major at UCLA. She added: “‘Drink responsibly,’ what does that even mean?”

A recent study, alcohol industry critics and even a risqué parody on the animated sitcom South Park echo Romo’s skepticism. (more…)

Ballot measure backers spend big, win big

Editor’s note: The Center for Public Integrity tracked political advertising in races for the U.S. Senatestate-level offices and state ballot measures. Use these three interactive features to see who was calling the shots and where the money was spent. 

A screengrab from the Drug Free Florida Committee against Amendment 2 in Florida, a measure to allow medical marijuana. The measure failed. Drug Free Florida Committee/YouTube

A screengrab from the Drug Free Florida Committee against Amendment 2 in Florida, a measure to allow medical marijuana. The measure failed. Drug Free Florida Committee/YouTube

By Liz Essley Whyte, Center for Public Integrity

Big money was a boon to groups fighting for and against ballot measures across the states on Election Day.

In 21 of the top 25 most expensive state ballot measure races in terms of television ad spending, groups that won the war on the airwaves also won at the ballot box, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of unofficial election results and preliminary data from media tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG.

But surprising upsets also showed that in the wild world of direct democracy, money isn’t everything. (more…)

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