On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that State Attorney Ed Brodsky won’t seek maximum sentences for Elissa Alvarez and Jose Caballero, who were convicted on Monday of public lewdness for (no-longer-allegedly) having sex on a public beach in Bradenton, within sight of several families. The two could have faced 15 years in prison, along with sex offender registration.
That they’re going to get less than that (though it’s still unclear how much less) is good news not just for the couple, but for Florida — the announcement will hopefully at least slightly deflate the roiling clouds of gleeful indignation over yet another example of Florida So Crazy.
TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald
Caballero and Alvarez being handcuffed after their conviction.
Because let’s be real: a solid proportion of the advertising aimed at out of state tourists holds forth the subtle promise that, if you come to Florida, you might end up sticking things into things while covered in sand. (Enticing, right?) Putting a couple away for more than a decade for doing what comes naturally when in the presence of the ocean’s sublime beauty would be, at the very least, horrible PR.
Of course, many people still feel it’s absurd that Alvarez and Caballero face any jail time. And there’s no indication that they won’t have to register as sex offenders, a designation that closes down the possibilities of a person’s entire life with the stark finality of a descending black curtain.
They made a mistake, no doubt. In fact, they come across as grade-A self-involved morons (among other evidence for the prosecution in that case: Caballero was arrested wearing a thong).
But for context, it’s not hard to find examples of felony sentences such as a six years for rape (celebrity category), or 10 years for child murder. Alvarez or Caballero’s sentences ending up anywhere remotely close to those would instantly make prosecutors guilty of worse judgment than the convicts ever showed.
In fact, the sentencing process, rather than any debate over decency, is the real point of concern here. Jurors in criminal trials are tasked with determining innocence and guilt – but have no procedural access to the sentencing guidelines for the charges they’re deliberating.
There are certainly good reasons for that (please, please tell me there are good reasons for that...), but the upshot is that the case says nearly nothing about the moral standards of Floridians. The defense in the case feebly argued that Alvarez was just 'dancing' on top of Caballero, but there were multiple witnesses, and even a cell phone video that’s pretty hard to refute.
Jurors’ only job was to process these facts, not weigh what they thought the response should be. There’s no guarantee that a jury would have gone easy on the couple in sentencing — but whatever sentence comes down, it won’t have been decided by the couples' fellow beachgoing citizens.
In Caballero’s case, it might not even have been decided by a judge. He has a prior felony conviction, and recently completed serving that sentence. Under Florida law, prosecutors could have filed for an automatic 15 year sentence for the new offense, with seemingly no discretion left in the hands of the judge. The Herald reports that Brodsky has withdrawn that paperwork. Let’s hope someone takes the opportunity to make a good decision here.
If you do the news, you never want to be in the news.
But two of our favorite news sources are both in the news at the moment, and appear to be having a news fight.
One is the News Service of Florida, an outlet that offers content on a subscription basis, and allows media outlets who subscribe to publish some or all of its voluminous and high-quality content with proper attribution. CL is a subscriber, and often incorporates reporting from NSF into its own content. Other outlets that run NSF stories include The Tampa Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Congrats to Dan Perkins for being named one of this year's Pulitzer finalists for Editorial Cartooning.
Dan's syndicated cartoon, "This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow," is a longtime favorite of CL readers and a welcome antidote to political nonsense of all stripes. He won the Pulitzer recognition for cartoons that run in the Daily Kos, many of which also run in CL. The winner of this year's top prize in editorial cartooning was Adam Zyglis of the Buffalo News.
The Pulitzer committee commended Perkins "for cartoons that create an alternate universe — an America frozen in time whose chorus of conventional wisdom is at odds with current reality."
Can't wait to see if he does a cartoon about that.
Bondi was prominently featured in the story, which showed how lobbyists are are using campaign donations, fancy dinners and other inducements to pressure attorneys general to drop lawsuits, ignore advice of state regulators and even adopt talking points pre-approved by the lobbyists' clients.
Ever wonder what columnist Howard Troxler has been up to since he retired from the Times four years ago?
We did. In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay awards coming up this September, we've been checking up on past winners like Troxler. An indispensable voice of common sense at the Tribune and then the Times, he won so many BOTBs that we moved him into our Hall O' Fame in 2006.
But back in 1991, in the paper's second annual BOTB issue (right), the editors weren't in quite so charitable a mood. The award they gave Troxler? BEST COLUMNIST THAT DOESN'T DESERVE AN AWARD. I guess they were miffed about his move to the Times:
“Gee Howard, you leave the Tribune to go all the way across the Bay, showing either a lack of loyalty or a sellout or delusions of grandeur or an overworked system. Then you let your attire be marketed on the racks and then begin with a couple of useless columns and now no one seems to care."
Well, that "no one seems to care" part certainly changed. (And not sure what the attire-marketing crack was about — what, the Times was selling Troxler Bow Ties?)
But Troxler hasn't exactly retired. Now living in North Carolina, he told us via Facebook that he's still working, just not in the world of punditry:
We're not sure if we should condemn him for sending out uncool tweets six years ago, or if we think we ought to let the South African comedian, who was just announced as Daily Show host Jon Stewart's replacement, off the hook by chalking it up to youthful indiscretion and forgive.
The posts, a couple of which could be perceived as anti-Semitic, are from 2009, when he was in his mid-twenties.
But we did give Ethan Czahor, that guy Jeb Bush's campaign hired, a pretty hard time when someone unearthed texts of his, also from 2009, that showed his simultaneous hatred of/likely frustrated longing for sluts and gay men. And he left his job over the tweets.