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Captive's mom: 'He's an innocent journalist'

<p> A mother's plea to the terrorists holding her son -- a former University of Central Florida student -- hostage says no one should be punished for events they cannot control.</p><p> The mother is Shirley Sotloff, and she speaks directly to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a <a href="http://ara.tv/mcuwx" target="_blank">video broadcast Wednesday on Al Arabiya Network</a>.</p><p> Her son, freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, appeared last week in an ISIS video showing the decapitation of American journalist James Foley.</p><p> The militant in the video warns that Steven Sotloff's fate depends on what President Barack Obama does next in Iraq.</p><p> A day after the video was posted, Obama vowed that the United States would be "relentless" in striking back against ISIS.</p><p> "Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson," Shirley Sotloff said in the rare public appeal. "He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak."</p><p> The journalist has no control over what the United States government does, and he should not be held responsible for its actions, she says.</p><p> "He's an innocent journalist," she said.</p><p> The mother appeals to al-Baghdadi's self-declared title of caliph of the Islamic State.</p><p> As caliph, he has the power to grant amnesty to Steven Sotloff, the mother said.</p><p> "I ask you to please release my child," she said.</p><p> Steven Sotloff disappeared while reporting from Syria in August 2013, but his family kept the news secret, fearing harm to him if they went public.</p><p> Out of public view, the family and a number of government agencies have been trying to gain Sotloff's release for the past year.</p><p> Sotloff, 31, grew up in South Florida with his mother, father and younger sister. He majored in journalism at the University of Central Florida. His personal Facebook page lists musicians like the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Miles Davis and movies like "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Big Lebowski" as favorites. On his Twitter page, he playfully identifies himself as a "stand-up philosopher from Miami."</p><p> In 2004, Sotloff left UCF and moved back to the Miami area.</p><p> He graduated from another college, began taking Arabic classes and subsequently picked up freelance writing work for a number of publications, including Time, Foreign Policy, World Affairs and the Christian Science Monitor. His travels took him to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey -- among other countries -- and eventually Syria.</p><p> At UCF, student reporters who work for the same newspaper as Sotloff once did are keeping the campus up to date on what's happening.</p><p> The Central Florida Future's headline reads, "Former UCF student taken hostage by ISIS extremists," and includes interviews with journalism professors who discuss the importance of front line journalism in the wake of war.</p><p> The following is the full text of Shirley Sotloff's video statement:</p><p> "I'm sending this message to you, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ... the caliph of the Islamic State.</p><p> "I am Shirley Sotloff. My son, Steven, is in your hands. Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants.</p><p> "Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson. He's an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.</p><p> "We've not seen Stephen for over a year, and we miss him very much. We want to see him home safe and sound and to hug him.</p><p> "Since Stephen's capture, I've learned a lot about Islam. I've learned that Islam teaches that no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.</p><p> "Stephen has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He's an innocent journalist.</p><p> "I've always learned that you, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you to please release my child. As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.</p><p> "I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to set the example of the Prophet Mohammed, who protected people of the Book.</p><p> "I want what every mother wants: to live to see her children's children.</p><p> "I plead with you to grant me this."</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:30:10 GMT

Daytona Beach police chief stopped at OIA security with gun in bag

<p> The Daytona Beach police chief was escorted from Orlando International Airport last week after he was stopped at a security checkpoint with a gun in his carry-on bag, according to Orlando police.</p><p> Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood was departing OIA just before 8 p.m. on Aug. 21 when he was stopped while going through the Transportation Security Administration's checkpoint, OPD said.</p><p> A TSA screener noticed a 2-inch small ankle gun inside Chitwood's carry-on luggage and notified OPD.</p><p> Chitwood can travel armed after completion of the TSA's Law Enforcement Officer-Fly Armed Program, police said.</p><p> "For the sake of time, Chief Chitwood was escorted from the checkpoint to safely secure his weapon before he was allowed to board his flight," police said in a release.</p><p> No further action was required, according to police.</p><p> Chitwood told Local 6 on Wednesday that he left working an anti-crime operation and changed in the locker room to save time so he could catch his flight.</p><p> "Shoes come out, everything comes out, I'm putting my stuff on and I see two OPD officers and a TSA officer standing there and they said 'Chief, you have a gun in your bag' and I'm like 'I don't have a gun in my bag,'" Chitwood said. "And that quick,  I realized I got a gun in my bag."</p><p> Chitwood said he's authorized to carry the gun.</p><p> "I didn't ask for any favors and OPD didn't give me any favors," Chitwood said. "They said this is what the policy is and this is how we do these things."</p><p> Chitwood said it's a mistake he never should have made.</p><p> "I can't say sorry enough for being stupid and embarrassing our organization and mostly, embarrassing myself," he said.</p><p> Chitwood said he's already contacted the city manager about the incident and now they're waiting on TSA to finish up their investigation.</p><p> TSA released a statement on Wednesday, saying, "Due to privacy laws, TSA may not and does not confirm the names of individuals involved in security incidents. As a matter of policy, anyone who brings a firearm to a federal checkpoint faces possible civil penalties regardless of whether and independent of whether they face criminal penalties."</p><p> TSA said it partners with OPD whenever security stops a gun at a checkpoint.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:08:23 GMT

Former expressway authority member found guilty in bribery trial

<p> A jury on Wednesday found a former Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority member guilty of bribery charges.</p><p> </p><p> Scott Batterson was found guilty on both charges of soliciting unlawful compensation and bribery.</p><p> According to testimony, he offered a businessman with an engineering firm a contract worth five million dollars a year, if the firm would agree to hire his friends.</p><p> "This was not a casual conversation. We made that clear with the evidence we presented," state prosecutor Deborah Barra told Local 6.</p><p> Batterson was<a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/orlandoorange-county-expressway-member-indicted-on-bribery-charges/25642922" target="_blank"> indicted on bribery charges in April.</a></p><p> The defense rested without calling any witnesses, but did call into question the credibility of the states star witness Mark Callahan.</p><p> "He lied on the stand and he admitted he was a liar," Amy Tingley, Batterson's attorney said. "We're very disappointed."</p><p> She said they plan to appeal.  </p><p> Governor Rich Scott appointed Batterson to the expressway authority in 2011.</p><p> Batterson faces 30 years in prison.</p><p> Check back with Local 6 and ClickOrlando.com for more on this story.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:33:24 GMT

Altamonte Springs residents concerned after close encounters with bear

<p> There are new concerns about bears roaming in a Central Florida neighborhood.</p><p> [VIDEO: <a href="/blob/view/-/27755006/data/1/-/hk9e7ez/-/Bear-video-in-Altamonte.qt" target="_blank">Bear rummages through trash</a>]</p><p> Miguel St. Onge tells Local 6 that he's had two bear encounters in the past two days at his home on Crosby Drive, just west of 434 in Altamonte Springs.</p><p> His surveillance camera captured the bear Tuesday night as it rummaged through his trash.</p><p> “When I came out and the trash cans were turned over,” says St. Onge.</p><p> But his first encounter was Monday night, as he pulled into his garage. He says he saw the blue and red flashing lights from a police car.</p><p> “As I get out of the car the cops screaming at me run inside. It was terrifying. I heard the word bear and I was running.”</p><p> St. Onge says he called Florida Fish and Wildlife asking for a trap to be set up in the neighborhood. But FWC tells Local 6, they won't remove a bear unless public safety is a concern or threat.</p><p> “Is it gonna take a child to get eaten around here or an adult for that matter walking their dog?” St. Onge said.</p><p> Instead FWC spokesperson Greg Workman say the neighborhood needs to focus on getting rid of the bear's food source. He says if there's no garbage or any human introduced food source for the bear to get into, then it will move out of the area. </p><p> A deputy with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office tells Local 6 they responded to two bear sighting Wednesday morning about 1.5 miles from St. Onge's home.</p><p> In both cases, the bear didn't hurt anyone.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:09:03 GMT

Fundraiser held for downtown Orlando shooting victim's family

<p> A fundraiser was held on Wednesday to benefit the family of the victim of a deadly shooting in downtown Orlando.</p><p> <a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/27622028" target="_blank">Maria Godinez</a>, 22, was accidentally shot and killed in Vixen Bar last week by a stray bullet from Orlando Police Officer Eduardo Sanguino's gun.</p><p> "Everybody in the restaurant was obviously upset. We had two other employees that were there at the time, obviously devastated," said manager Ronnie Emmons. "We're trying to do anything we can to help the family tonight."</p><p> Police were called to the club after Kody Roach, 23, was seen waving around a gun outside of the club. <a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/man-faces-murder-charge-in-fatal-orlando-police-shooting-at-downtown-nightclub/27732002" target="_blank">Roach faces first-degree murder charges </a>in Godinez's death and was shot at least five times by Sanguino.</p><p> You can help Godinez's family by visiting the Sonny's BBQ in Cocoa Beach on State Road A1A, where Godinez worked, until 9 p.m. Wednesday. Twenty percent of the proceeds will go to her family.</p><p> "20 percent of our total sales tonight is going to go to the family for funeral costs or anything they may need as a result of this tragedy," Emmons said. "Everyone from Sonny's headquarters to Sonny Tillman himself actually, so it's been very nice, the outpouring of support from the Sonny's community."</p><p> The Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to investigate the police-involved shooting.</p><p> As standard procedure, the officers in the shooting, Sanguino and Officer Jeff Angel, were placed on paid administrative leave.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:16:11 GMT

Photos: Florida mug shots

<p> Here's a look at some of the individuals who have been arrested recently in the Sunshine State.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:46:59 GMT

'Pee-wee's Playhouse': Where are they now?

<p> In honor of Paul Reubens' 62nd birthday on Wednesday, join us for a look at where Pee-wee Herman and his pals are nearly 30 years after the debut of "Pee-wee's Playhouse."</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 06:00:00 GMT

Fla. Supreme Court asked to rule on gay marriage

<p> Florida's highest court is being asked to decide whether or not the state's ban on gay marriage is constitutional.</p><p> In an unusual decision, the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal on Wednesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to settle the question due to "great public importance." If the high court takes up the case, it could result in having the issue settled even before the U.S. Supreme Court acts.</p><p> The ruling is connected to a Hillsborough County divorce case involving a same-sex couple who had been married in Massachusetts but since relocated to the Tampa area. Their petition to dissolve their marriage was rejected by a Florida judge who noted that state law does not recognize gay marriage.</p><p> "Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here," states the unsigned opinion. "And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida."</p><p> A panel of judges with the Lakeland based appeals court earlier this summer rejected a request to forward the case up the state Supreme Court. But that ruling was overturned in a 10-3 decision by the entire appeals court.</p><p> Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked judges to stop ruling on same-sex marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can ban gay marriage. But her request has not been ruled on yet. Bondi's office was not involved in the Hillsborough County case, but a spokeswoman said the ruling is being reviewed now by the attorney general.</p><p> Voters approved Florida's ban in 2008.</p><p> But judges in four Florida counties — Palm Beach, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward— have overturned the ban. Last week a federal judge also overturned the ban. No marriage licenses have been issued so far as the cases have either been appealed or judges have issued a stay to delay the effect of the ruling.</p><p> Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions against state same-sex marriage restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:53:34 GMT

Vigil held to mark 8 years since Trenton Duckett's disappearance

<p> A candlelight vigil will be held on Wednesday night to mark eight years since Trenton Duckett vanished from his Leesburg home.</p><p> The 2-year-old boy was reported missing on Aug. 27, 2006 by his mother, Melinda Duckett.</p><p> Duckett told investigators she put Trenton to bed and when she went to check on him a few hours later, he was gone and the screen on his bedroom window was cut.</p><p> He was never found. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also released a new, age-progressed image of Trenton as a 9-year-old on the heels of the anniversary of his disappearance.</p><p> Trenton's vigil will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Leesburg Town Square.</p><p> Check back for more on this story.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:07:49 GMT

Florida 4-year-old expelled from preschool for mom's Facebook post

<p> A local mother is outraged after her 4-year-old son was expelled from the private Christian preschool he attended because of a Facebook post on her personal page.</p><p> WJXT reports Ashley Habat said she was upset the school didn't give parents more time to get ready for picture day, and so she vented about it on Facebook.</p><p> The next day, the school told Habat that her son, Will, could no longer attend.</p><p> Habat said she doesn't regret expressing her opinion, which she said was posted to her private page for only her friends to see. Regardless, she doesn't believe her son should be punished for something she wrote, she said. And she wishes the school had tried to work with her before expelling him.</p><p> Habat said she and her son ran late for school on picture day at Sonshine Christian Academy in Callahan, and she mentioned to the administrator checking Will in that she thought the school didn't give enough notice of picture day. The administrator said they put a note in Will's folder the week before.</p><p> Habat said she took to Facebook to vent her frustrations and never expected the school to see her post.</p><p> The post read, “Why is it that every single day there is something new I dislike about Will's School? Are my standards really too high or are people working in the education field really just that ignorant.”</p><p> She tagged the school in the post, and the next morning, she received a call, asking her to stop by the office when she dropped her son off.</p><p> “They just felt like we weren't the right fit, parent relationship with the school, and that they didn't want him as a student anymore,” Habat said. “He had done nothing wrong.”</p><p> According to the letter of dismissal, Habat's “relationship with Sonshine did not get off to a very good start the first day of school. … You utilized social media to call into question not only the integrity but the intelligence of our staff. ... These actions are also consistent with sowing discord, which is spoken of in the handbook you signed.”</p><p> “I was in shock,” Habat said. “Why would you expel a 4-year-old over something his mom posts on her private Facebook page only people on her friends list can see?”</p><p> WJXT contacted the principal of Sonshine Christian Academy for a comment but have not yet received a response.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:50:23 GMT

Port Orange police find body in car outside Kohl's

<p> A body was found late Tuesday night outside a department store in Volusia County, according to a report.</p><p> Port Orange police said the body was found in the Kohl's parking lot along Taylor Road in Port Orange.</p><p> Officers said they saw a vehicle, which was towing a trailer, parked with the lights on and the vehicle running.</p><p> Inside the vehicle, Craig Lehman, 42, was found unresponsive and sitting in the driver's seat, according to the report.</p><p> Police said the initial investigation showed no indication of criminal activity or suspicous circumstances for the cause of death.</p><p> An autopsy will be conducted to determine cause of death, police said.</p><p> Watch Local 6 News and stay with ClickOrlando.com for more on this story.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:13:57 GMT

Family angry after airline 'loses' elderly mother

<p> A woman is upset after she says that Southwest Airlines failed to keep track of her 85-year-old mother, leaving her stranded in an airport for 11 hours.</p><p> Denver's CBS4 reports that Alice Vaticano, 85, was flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to visit her daughter in Denver when as miscommunication between Skycap, a service that assists special needs passengers like Vaticano to their gates, and the gate agents left the elderly woman sitting alone in a wheelchair for most of the day. </p><p> </p><p> After being dropped off at the airport in Newark, Skycap promised to wheel Vaticano directly to her gate.</p><p> But somehow Vaticano got parked at the gate and forgotten.</p><p> "She pushed me there and left me," Vaticano told CBS4. "I was just sitting all day in a wheelchair."</p><p> She missed her flight, and when she didn't show up at the Denver International Airport at the scheduled time, Vaticano's daughter who was waiting for her in Denver grew increasingly concerned.</p><p> Vaticano, who suffers from diabetes, admitted to being confused, saying she didn't know where she was and that she wasn't given any food or water all day.</p><p> It was verified that Vaticano checked in for her flight in Newark two hours prior to her scheduled departure, but a processing error failed to alert gate agents that there was a person with a wheelchair in need of assistance with boarding the plane.</p><p> </p><p> Once Southwest Airlines officials realized the mistake, they put Vaticano on a flight to Denver.</p><p> Southwest gave her two $100 vouchers for future travel.</p><p> <br/><br/></p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:13:36 GMT

Good food that costs less than $1

<p> Today is National Banana Lovers Day! Lucky for you, bananas are super healthy. But did you know they're also one of several foods that cost less than $1?</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 06:00:00 GMT

Americans detained abroad

<p> American writer and journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was held captive for nearly two years by Syrian militants Jabhat al-Nusra, returned to the United States Tuesday. Here's a look at other Americans who have been detained abroad. Some are alive. Some are not.</p>

Published: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:09:44 GMT