News Cast for February 5th:
Hall named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office honored top employees and welcomed 14 new deputies at a special recognition ceremony Friday.
Deputy Joseph Hall was named the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Other nominees included Matt Brumley, Sport Pickering and Carey Arnold.
Lisa Leon was named Detention Deputy of the Year. Others nominated included Kaitlin Deschamps, Wade Morgan, and David Rogers.
The Corrections Support Employee of the Year was Linda Herndon. Others nominated were Cindy Kemp, Chad Cox and Stephanie Rogers.
The Law Enforcement Support Employee of the Year was Kathleen Watson. Others nominated were Amy Fisher, Denise Chakowski and Melissa Marcinek.
Maggie Williams was named Volunteer of the year.
Det. Dale LaFlam was honored for 40 years of service to the department.
Robert Coleman and Amy Davis were honored for 25 years of service.
20 year service pins were issued to Debbie Deloney, Patricia Massung, Lisa Smith, Denise Sigorski, Kevin Coleman and Justa Paul.
Life Saving Awards were given to Deputy Gary Cashwell for a fire in Oak Lake Villas last February 2, and to Abigail Wish Hart for helping save the life of a trustee who became unresponsive while working at Animal Control on September 12.
The Medal of Valor were issued to Det. Leland Schoonmaker for saving the life of a team member with the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force during a struggle with an armed suspect on May 12.
Det. Roy Gilcrist and Det. Joe Lasert both received meritorious awards for their role in subduing the armed suspect during that incident.
The Alpha Squad under the direction of Sgt. Bryan Lowe earned a citation for the help they gave in securing a homicide scene in Playland Park on December 17.
Sheriff Noel Stephen also gave the oath of office to eight new detention deputies and five new law enforcement deputies.
The list of new detention deputies included Joshua Mercer, Gabe Greseth, Wesley Davis, David Ramos Jr, Joshua Rhoden, Antonioi Hernandez Jr., Jimmy Cabrera and Anes Escabaria.
The list of new road patrol deputies included Skyler Kasan, Romero Duval, Horace Nicholson, Brady Rogers and Karen Woodham.
Fire Department Transition continues
The transition of city firemen into county firemen is going well.
All but one has been offered jobs with the county.
All have done well in paramedic school as they prepare to take state tests.
City Fire Chief Herb Smith said he is proud of how his guys are handling the course, “They seem to be doing real well. They all passed. Its not easy. They have one semester left. They have passed the written part and the rest is physical. I think they will be fine.”
The city recently sat down with union members to discuss issues like salary, sick pay and severance pay.
City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca said he thinks they have worked together to make the transition smooth, “I thought it was a good productive meeting. They heard an overview from us and we listened to some of the concerns that they have. It is what we are supposed to do.”
Okeechobee County Fire Rescue is due to take over fire service in the city on June 1st.
Harold Lee Harvey loses another appeal
An Okeechobee man on Florida’s Death Row for over 30 years lost another round of appeals on Thursday before the Florida Supreme Court.
Harold Lee Harvey appealed an order from the circuit court that denied his post-conviction motion.
Harvey, 58 was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986 of the double murder of William and Ruby Boyd at the couple’s Okeechobee ranch off route 68 east.
Harvey and a co-defendant shot the couple to death and robbed them in February, 1985.
In the latest appeal, Harvey argued that he was entitled to a new trial because counsel conceded guilt to first-degree murder without giving Harvey notice and the opportunity to object.
Harvey cited the US Supreme Court case McCoy v Louisiana form 2018 in filing the appeal.
The McCoy ruling stated that if a defendant expressly asserts that the objective of his defense is to maintain innocence of the charged criminal acts, his lawyer must abide by that objective and may not override it by conceding guilt. The defendant, the court stated, vociferously insisted that he did not engage in the charged acts and adamantly objected to any admission of guilt. The court found the counsel’s concession of guilt violated McCoy’s autonomy to decide that the objective of the defense is to assert innocence.
The Florida Supreme Court found Harvey’s claim was not a McCoy claim because Harvey did not allege that trial counsel conceded guilt over his expressed objection.
He claimed his trial counsel failed to consult with him in advance of the trial.
Harry Stiteler, 54, is serving a life sentence in the case.