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Jacksonville attorney arrested for sexual contact with inmate

A Jacksonville attorney has been arrested for battery on a female inmate, who is his client.

The affidavit for arrest warrant obtained by WOKV claims 45-year-old Anthony Blackburn was alone with his client in an interview room at the Pre-Trial Detention facility with the lights off and door closed for 16 minutes. During that time, Blackburn allegedly showed his female client pornographic images while “he attempted to arouse himself”.

Blackburn is then accused of starting a sexual conversation with the inmate, grabbing her hand to put on his penis and placing his hand on her vagina, outside of their clothing. He stopped after seeing a Corrections Officer approach the room, according to the affidavit. The CO then opened the door and told Blackburn to turn on the lights.

The affidavit says the inmate did not want to allow Blackburn to touch her, but “felt obligated to do so because the defendant led her to believe he would help her get her jail sentence reduced”.

Blackburn is also accused in court records of giving the tablet with pornographic images to another female inmate he was representing. That inmate confirmed to investigators that she had had “inappropriate sexual conduct” with Blackburn while at the jail.

Court records show Blackburn has posted bond on the misdemeanor charge of simple battery. His arraignment has been set for October 17th.

WOKV has reached out to the Sheriff’s Office for comment on the alleged activity within the Jail facility. We will update as more information becomes available.

What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case

More than a week after Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were killed in their southern Martin County home, Florida, much remains unknown about what led to the seemingly random, but unusually brutal, stabbings.

The couple often kept their garage door up, said Stevens’ brother-in-law, Doug Maddox, with a seat open and the TV on for friends and family. Mishcon was found stabbed to death at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 15 in that garage. Stevens was found dead in the driveway.

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When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home on Southeast Kokomo Lane, just north of the Jupiter border, they also found 19-year-old Austin Harrouff. The Jupiter teen was clinging to Stevens and biting off pieces of the man’s face. He already had bitten the man’s abdomen, deputies said.

A neighbor told deputies he tried to intervene in the attack but was stabbed, too. That neighbor, Jeff Fisher, went back to his home across the street and called 911. He was “bleeding profusely,” he told a dispatcher. His wife said he had been stabbed in the back.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder called Harrouff “abnormally strong.”

Yet friends of the sophomore at Florida State University said he “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

So what was the motive?

“We may absolutely never know,” Snyder said.

Nothing indicates Harrouff knew the couple. Their family members have said they don’t recognize the teen. Fisher told a dispatcher shortly after he was stabbed that he didn’t either.

>>READ MORE: Dad says Austin Harrouff may have mental illness

Officials have been unable to talk to Harrouff, the Sheriff’s Office says, because he has been sedated or hooked to breathing tubes since he arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center immediately following the stabbings. The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, but has not provided a statement.

The details of Harrouff’s injuries, and a complete toxicology report, haven’t been released.

He arrived making “animal-like noises,” the Sheriff’s Office said, and was delusional. His parents said the teen had been acting strange for at least a week; his father said the strange behavior had been going on for months. His mother told Jupiter police that Harrouff had told her he had “super powers” and that he was immortal.

Harrouff’s dad, Wade, thinks mental illness may have triggered the attacks. The teen hasn’t been diagnosed, his dad said, but schizophrenia runs in the family.

Were drugs involved?

The sheriff speculates drugs, like flakka or bath salts, may be involved. Yet Harrouff dared deputies to drug test him after they took him in to custody: “Test me. You won’t find any drugs.”

>>READ MORE: What is flakka and what does it do to your body?

Initial tests indicate Harrouff didn’t have street drugs, like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or marijuana, in his system at the time of the attacks.

“I don’t think he did (use drugs),” Wade Harrouff said. “I guess we’ll find out when the test comes.”

Those drug tests of Austin Harrouff’s blood -- which are being done by the FBI -- will show whether drugs like flakka or bath salts were in the teen’s system.

Until then, detectives are in “a holding pattern,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Is Austin Harrouff’s condition affecting the investigation?

The teen’s condition also is stalling the investigation.

The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, over a week after the incident. He has not spoken to authorities yet. 

The day after the fatal stabbings, Snyder said Austin Harrouff’s injuries were “life-threatening” and that his condition was getting worse. Eight days after the attack, officials are saying the teen is in critical, but stable condition. On Tuesday, though, his father said his organs were failing. His son’s liver is malfunctioning, his lungs are filling with fluid and he has bleeding of the esophagus. The Sheriff’s Office said it would not release details of Austin Harrouff’s treatment plan at the hospital. 

The night of the attack, Harrouff was out to dinner with his parents at Duffy’s Sports Grill in Jupiter with his parents. Harrouff left the restaurant, his father said, and went to his mother’s house. There he attempted to drink cooking oil, according to his father.

Afterward, Harrouff’s mother, Mina, brought him back to the restaurant. There, Harrouff’s father became upset with his son and grabbed him by the collar.

It’s unclear if there was a fight, but surveillance video from the restaurant shows Harrouff eventually leave, walking calmly out of the restaurant. He then made his way to Stevens and Mishcon’s home, about four miles north along Island Way.

What happened when Harrouff reached the garage?

The Sheriff’s Office said the teen may have ingested something “caustic” in the couple’s garage.

“There were things he could have consumed, and that first night at the hospital, the hospital speculated based on what they were seeing in his body fluids, that perhaps he had ingested something caustic from the garage,” Snyder said.

The blood test results “will provide a big piece of the unknown,” Snyder said.

What happens when Harrouff is released from the hospital?

As soon as Harrouff is released from St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Sheriff’s Office said it will charge him with two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Jacksonville man arrested for armed robbery at Clay County auto parts store

A man law enforcement considers dangerous is off the streets after a search that spanned three counties.

Ricky Barker was arrested in Duval County Wednesday afternoon.

He is being held at the Clay County jail on no bond for an armed robbery at an auto parts store.

Officers believe he is responsible for armed robberies at Advance Discount Auto Parts in Clay County Sunday and Advance Auto Parts in St. Johns County Tuesday.

And this isn’t Barker’s first time in trouble with the law.

Action News Jax did some digging and found out he was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at least 18 times on various crimes dating back to 2003.

His charges range from possession of marijuana to domestic battery.

Taso Alimonos was in Clay County at the auto parts store on Sunday and he said he went to pick up some oil but walked right into an armed robbery.

"The guy in front of me just fell on the ground, I said 'what's wrong with this guy.' Then I heard 'get down it’s a robbery,'" Alimonos said.

He was then forced to go to the back of the store and into the bathroom.

"Oh man, this guy got a gun he's going to start shooting or something, so I didn't do anything, but go in the back," Alimonos said.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is now considering Barker a person of interest because of the similarities in both robberies.

Alimonos said he is thankful for a quick arrest.

"He don't need to be doing stuff like that. Like I said, he could have started shooting over here," Alimonos said. 

Wigged robber who held 4 people at gunpoint at Clay County auto parts store arrested in Jax— Brittney Donovan (@brittneydonovan) August 10, 2016

Proposal could give less taxpayer money to divorced spouses of troops

A new proposal in Congress could send less taxpayer money to divorced spouses of U.S. military personnel.

It’s part of a bill amendment that would change the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

Right now, retirement pay is awarded to ex-spouses based on the rank and years of service at the time of retirement, but the proposal changes it to the rank and years served at the time of the divorce.

“Twenty years in the Navy, I’ve seen a lot of relationships come and go,” retired Navy veteran Barend Watkins said.

Watkins said he knew fellow sailors who have been required to give large portions of their retirement pay to ex-spouses even if those service members divorced the spouses years before achieving their highest rank.

Watkins said the amendment can put a stop to that.

“It’s definitely a good step in the right direction,” Watkins said. “It’s fair to everybody.”

Retired Petty Officer Chris Taylor, who served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, said he has known a number of people who are now remarried with families after going through a divorce early in their military career.

“I remember my first deployment when we came from Fallujah, there were probably four Marines whose wives at the time were sitting there with divorce papers on the flight line as we flew back,” Taylor said. “A lot of those guys have gone on to be staff sergeants, gunners, master sergeants, and when they retire for their wife at the time to get full benefits, I mean that’s crazy.”

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., introduced the legislation in the House.

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1 year later: Suspected child rapist still on the loose in Jacksonville

Wednesday marked one year since an 8-year-old girl was raped and beaten in a wooded area near University Boulevard North. She has since moved to North Carolina with her sister and mother but the memory of the attack is still vivid in the minds of neighbors.

Her attacker remains on the run. All leads have run dry.

Community leaders including the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Justice Coalition, and CrimeStoppers gathered steps away from the area where the attack happened to hold a news conference.

The goal of the news conference was to put the story back in the forefront and help jog someone’s memory who could help police.

“Why hasn't this guy been caught?” said Denneth, the victim’s father.

Action News Jax is only using his first name to protect the victim’s identity.

“I talked with my daughter around the 17th, she really didn't seem like herself, she seemed distant," he said.

JSO Director of Investigations and Homeland Security Tom Hackney said 25 pieces of evidence were processed, interviews completed, but they still have not been able to crack the case.

“Perhaps this person who did this has talked to somebody, has made a comment, has made a statement over a beer said something,” said Hackney.

Hackney said he has a piece of evidence that could be useful but what he’s lacking is a name.

“This wasn't a crime that occurred from 20 to 30 yards away, he had to look this little girl in the eyes and do what he did to her. There's a special place for this guy,” said Hackney.

Neighbors are concerned the suspect will attack again if someone doesn’t step up and give police the tip their need to make an arrest.

“You got more kids still in danger. This person is free to do this to another child,” said Tameika Walton.

Action News Jax learned about the attack around 7:20 the night of Aug. 10, 2015 thanks to a viewer who called our newsroom.

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But it wasn’t until nearly four hours later that Hackney, who was at the scene that night, confirmed an 8-year-old girl was sexually battered and her attacker was still on the loose. Action News Jax reporter Lorena Inclan questioned Hackney about that delay. “We look at everything we can do at the Sheriff's Office to see if there's a better way we can do it and that burden of responsibility falls on me as the director of investigations and sometimes I get out as quick as I can,” said Hackney. “I don't like to get out and I don't like to have my staff get out with false information or not enough information.” The hope now is that the renewed attention on the case will generate more leads. CrimeStoppers Executive Director Wyllie Hodges said it’s been nearly a year since they received a tip on the case. “This is not the first or the last victim of this individual. We need people to step up, we need this guy put in jail,” said Hodges. Thanks to a $6,000 donation from Impact Church, the reward stands at $9,000 for information that leads to an arrest. According to Hackney, they don’t have reason to suspect anyone in the child’s immediate circle of friends and family.

Fifteen people arrested in undercover child sex sting in Jacksonville

Fifteen people were arrested in an undercover child sex sting in Jacksonville, including a man who left a 6-year-old child unsupervised to meet up with who he thought was a minor for sex.

Officers said 11 people were arrested after phase one of Operation Blue Hawk.

Mugshots: 15 people arrested in Jacksonville child sex sting

The suspects solicited sex from officers who were posing as children, ages 12-14, online.

The suspects came to a location in Jacksonville and were arrested by officers.

One man traveled from Ocala to meet with who he thought was a child.

In the second phase of the operation, five suspects from outside Jacksonville were identified. Four have been arrested, including one person from Nassau County and another suspect from St. Augustine.

All of the suspects were between 25 and 45 years old.

Charges include use of computer to solicit sex acts from child, traveling to meet a child after solicitation and unlawful use of two-way communication device.

One person is also charged with child pornography after he showed up to the meeting place with child porn on a device.

Several agencies assisted in the investigation into child sex crimes.

It was initiated by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

JSO said more arrests are expected as a result of the investigation.

#JSO News conference scheduled for 2:00 p.m. to announce the details of undercover operation "Blue Hawk". #JAX— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) August 10, 2016

St. Johns County investigators recreate crime scenes with specialized scanner

A cutting-edge tool is helping the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office solve crimes.

It's a story you will only see on Action News Jax. Investigators are now able to create a digital replica of crime scenes using a Leica scanner.

A laser takes millions of measurements at the crime scene. That information can then be used to check witness or suspect testimony and later on during court cases.

When major crimes happen in St. Johns County, capturing every detail is key. That's where the high-precision scanner comes in.

“It’s putting out that laser, it’s getting a 360 degree view of the entire area,” said crime scene technician Stefanie Elliott.

Laser measurements combined with a camera allow investigators to document every inch of the scene.

“This way, we have absolutely everything we could possibly to be able to reconstruct the scene,” Elliott said.

Once every part of the scene is covered, the information is turned into a 3D model that allows investigators to actually walk through the scene long after the crime.

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“We’ll insert a camera with a height and let’s say they were 5’5,” Elliott said.

The tool provides the ability to verify what officers, suspects and even witnesses saw.

“That can kind of show whether or not that person could have seen what they’re saying they saw,” Elliott said.

A useful tool for solving crimes and later if the case goes to court.

“What this enables us to do is to take to those jurors the scene without having to recreate it in the real world. We can actually fly through if you will and show them what that scene looked like to the investigators and what was found that night,” Mulligan said.

The Sheriff's Office got its Leica Scanner in 2013. It was paid for by using forfeiture funds.

The scanner is most often used on homicide, traffic homicide, and officer involved shooting cases.

Wife of man arrested in connection to cockfighting: ‘We were being set up'

The wife of a Jacksonville man arrested in connection to cockfighting said she believes her family was set up.

Animal Control removed 56 wet, agitated, roosters and hens from their cages in the backyard of Timothy Prosser’s northwest Jacksonville home on Tuesday night.

Prosser was granted bail Wednesday morning.

He’s charged with having animals used for fighting and having equipment used for animal fighting.

“We feed our kids with the eggs. I mean, I love to bake,” said his wife Diane Griffin-Prosser. “We love our animals.”

She said her husband used to be involved with cockfighting, but not anymore.

“Yes, my husband did it years ago,” said Griffin-Prosser. “Long, long time ago.”

She said she believes the spurs, razor blades and steroids investigators said they found at their home were planted.

She said she suspects the original owners of the chickens, who were keeping the birds in their yard, are responsible.

“I feel that we were being set up,” said Griffin-Prosser.

She said her husband agreed to keep the chickens and pens at their home, and they knew they would be used for cockfighting.

She said the chickens' owners stopped using the chickens to cockfight “when my husband told them they couldn’t come back on our property because they owed us $500 for stealing stuff off my property. I feel like that’s why they planted this stuff.”

This is Prosser’s fourth Duval County arrest.

Prosser has also been cited by the city eight times for keeping chickens at a previous home that wasn’t zoned for it. The Duval County Clerk of Courts has no record he ever paid those $2,640 in fines.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been called out to the Prossers’ home seven times in the past year.

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Animal Control Chief Jim Crosby said officers were originally called out to Prosser’s home on Tuesday night because someone reported two dogs tied up without proper food, water or shelter.

Those officers saw the chickens and other items while they were there.

Animal Control moved Prosser’s chickens to an undisclosed location, where they’re being evaluated by veterinarians.

“There are alterations that fighters make to the birds to take away vulnerable areas and also to enhance their ability, for instance, to make it so they can strap literally knife blades to the back of their legs so they can do more damage and slice up the other animal,” said Crosby.

Crosby said the red frills on top of some of the roosters’ heads have been cut off. He said it’s a typical practice in cockfighting, because it makes it harder for other roosters to grab onto the mutilated birds with their beaks.

Animal control made makeshift perches out of mop handles to make the chickens more comfortable in their new pens.

School board addresses allegations against Clay superintendent

School board chair Johnna McKinnon gave a statement on Wednesday about allegations against Clay Superintendent Charlie Van Zant.

Last week in a letter to board members, former principal Dr.  Susan Sailor accused Van Zant of knowing that several of his high school principals falsely labeled struggling students as having a learning disability to inflate graduation rates.

She also accused him of instructing her and another district employee to write research papers she believed he turned in as homework for his online master’s degree.

A special meeting with school board members was supposed to happen tonight, but the chair canceled it, saying that it goes against policy to review allegations in a public meeting.

“I am canceling tonight’s meeting and directing the assistant superintendent for human resources to conduct an investigation,” said McKinnon.

The school board attorney Dan Sikes said employees who were named in the letter need due process.

“What’s happened here in the bloodlust to go after the superintendent is that innocent people who have due process rights have been injured,” said Sikes.

He also claimed they would go after whoever leaked the letter to the press.

“We’re going to find out whoever released this information in violation of the policy, because they may have their own troubles by violating board policy,” said Sikes.

“I released it. I released this information, and it’s not in violation of board policy because it affects our superintendent, who is, again, an elected official,” said board member Janice Kerekes.

Kerekes admitted she released the letter and said she wants to talk about the investigation at the Aug. 18 regular meeting so that they can decide if an outside agency should investigate.

“We need an outside individual to come in the department of education, or an inspector general to do an unbiased investigation,” said Kerekes.

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