MONDAY NOV. 29 8:11 a.m. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties
Chiefland moves into Final Four
Chiefland quarterback Clint Thomas attempts to escape from a determined Union County tackler after a big gain for a first down. TO SEE THE WHOLE STORY AND MORE PHOTOS GO TO THE LEISURE PAGE.
Updated (Nov. 27, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.) -- On Friday (Dec. 3) The Madison County Cowboys are coming to Chiefland to play the Indians to see which of those two teams goes into the final match. It will be the Cowboys and the Indians in Chiefland with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. The Hathorne Hornets and the Chipley Tigers are the other two teams playing to see who goes into the final game.
Photo By Terry Witt, HardisonInk.com Correspondent © Nov. 27, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
O’Steen’s federal criminal case continues
Motion deadline moved to Dec. 3
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 25, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
JACKSONVILLE – In the federal criminal case against M. Michael O’Steen, the United States District Court, Middle District Of Florida, Jacksonville Division, has agreed to extend the deadline for the legal defense team from Nov. 24 to Dec. 3, according to records.
O’Steen, who currently is the county attorney for the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners as well as the attorney for the Dixie County School Board, was indicted earlier this year for federal crimes in connection with former Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister, formerly of Live Oak.
Siegmeister was indicted by a grand jury on bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud, and tax fraud charges earlier this year (2021), according to records. In 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating him following allegations of a bribery scheme, according to records.
As noted in a Feb. 26, 2021, press release from the United States Department of Justice that addressed the indictment against Siegmeister, attorney O’Steen of Old Town was arrested on federal charges of conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity, conspiracy to commit extortion, and aiding and abetting extortion, in connection with Siegmeister’s alleged criminal acts.
The allegations against attorney O’Steen are not related to his work with the Dixie County government, but instead are from alleged deals made with Siegmeister when Siegmeister served as state attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit, according to records.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty. In this instance, it is at the federal level.
O’Steen remains free on bail, pending completion of the action related to the federal criminal charges of which he has been indicted, according to records.
The motion to extend a deadline was filed by defendant O’Steen, through his undersigned attorney, according to records.
In the motion, the defendant moved the honorable court to extend the motion deadline in this case, according to records.
As best as can be determined from records, United States District Court Judge Marcia Morales Howard, for the Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville Division), is scheduled to preside over this case if it reaches trial, as well as ruling on the pre-trial motions, such as this extension of the deadline to file motions.
District Court Judge Morales was nominated by then-President George W. Bush on Jan. 9, 2007, to a seat vacated by Judge Harvey Schlesinger. Judge Morales was confirmed by the United States Senate on Feb. 15, 2007, and received her commission on Feb. 20, 2007, according to records.
As grounds for this motion recorded last Friday (Nov. 19), defendant O’Steen, through his attorney stated that the motion deadline in this case, which was yesterday (Thursday, Nov. 24, 2021) needed to be extended, according to records. The defendant further noted that William Kent, esquire, was recently retained as co-counsel in this case, according to records. The title of “esquire” indicates Kent is an attorney.
The case file records show that the defense needs additional time to review discovery to determine any potential motions to be filed as this federal criminal action continues through the justice system, as a result of adding another defense attorney.
Attorney Mitchell A. Stone, another attorney on the O’Steen defense team communicated with Assistant United States Attorney Kelly Karase, who is the currently listed lead prosecutor in this case, and Stone verified that Karase had no objection to the requested extension, according to records.
As a result, O’Steen’s defense team requested and was granted by the court an extension of the motion deadline to be Dec. 3, according to records.
The document noting this extension was filed last Friday (Nov. 19), according to records.
In the original press release, information from the United States Department of Justice included the following:
As part of the conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity, between approximately November of 2017 and May 16, 2019, O’Steen requested official acts from Siegmeister --including the favorable disposition of charges filed against his clients, and the delay of official actions in order to enable O’Steen to obtain additional “fees” from at least one of his clients -- for which Siegmeister solicited bribes from O’Steen.
Regarding the extortion charges, O’Steen solicited Siegmeister to resolve a case against one of his clients through pre-trial intervention (“PTI”). O’Steen demanded $60,000 from that client in order to procure the PTI agreement from the Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.
O’Steen and Siegmeister then coordinated to withhold the finalization of the PTI agreement until the client paid $60,000 in cash to O’Steen. In connection with this case, Siegmeister solicited O’Steen to purchase a bull from a herd of livestock he owned for $4,000, and to make a political contribution.
Additionally, O’Steen is charged with failing to file within 15 days the required Form 8300 with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to acknowledge his receipt of more than $10,000 in cash from the client.
Siegmeister is separately charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and federal program bribery in connection with another prosecution by the State Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial Circuit. According to the indictment, Ernest Maloney Page IV, was a defense attorney representing a client charged with two driving under the influence (“DUI”) offenses.
The Third Judicial Circuit includes Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties. There are 20 judicial circuits in Florida.
In regard to Page’s client’s family, they owned a tractor dealership. In or around September of 2017, State Attorney Siegmeister informed attorney Page that he would favorably resolve one of the client’s DUI charges in exchange for a $10,000 discount on a tractor Siegmeister wanted to buy from the client’s dealership, and favorably resolve both DUI charges in exchange for a $20,000 discount.
Ultimately, Siegmeister and his wife purchased a tractor and accessories from the client’s dealership, the price of which Page’s client discounted by approximately $20,000. In exchange, Siegmeister dismissed the DUI charges and Page’s client pleaded guilty to charges of reckless driving with alcohol and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test.
On Aug. 20, 2020, Page pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery for his role in facilitating this transaction.
Siegmeister also is charged with wire fraud in connection with his legal guardianship of an elderly individual who lived in Columbia County. According to the indictment, from approximately January of 2010 through April of 2016, Siegmeister engaged in a scheme to defraud his ward and his ward’s estate by, among other things, transferring the victim’s assets for his own benefit, filing materially false documents with the court to conceal those transfers, and by creating a last will and testament for the victim, which designated Siegmeister’s relative as the sole beneficiary of the victim’s estate.
Siegmeister is also charged with filing false tax returns for tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017.
As noted before and again now, an indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
FDOT moves forward
with Northern Turnpike Extension
Meeting set for Dec. 7 at CF Levy Campus
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 24, 2021 at 2:11 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Transportation FDOT is moving forward with its extension of a turnpike going north from Wildwood to some point north of there, according to information shared by the FDOT on Nov. 24. The Northern Turnpike Extension (NTE) is still in the early stages of project development, according to FDOT Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise Communications Director Angela Starke.
The project is a proposed extension of Florida’s Turnpike “from its northerly terminus in Wildwood to a logical and appropriate terminus as determined by the FDOT” per Florida Senate Bill 100 (2021) Florida Senate Bill 100 (2021), Starke said.
A robust public engagement effort will continue throughout all phases, Starke said.
There are options to participate in the upcoming public kickoff meeting.
Members of the general public may participate virtually or online from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, via a computer, tablet, or smartphone, or in-person from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at the College of Central Florida, Levy Campus, located at 15390 U.S. Highway 19, north of Chiefland and south of the City of Fanning Springs.
People may participate in-person from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the College of Central Florida, Citrus Campus, located at 3800 S. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto.
Most rubber ducks ever (so far)
grace the Withlacoochee River
Ducks are dumped into the river as they launch on their race to the finish line.
Information and Photos Provided
By Ellen Klee, Kent Gardner, Dorsey DeMaster, Peter Weiss,
and Other Friends of the WGP
Published Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:11 p.m.
YANKEETOWN – The Friends of the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve (WGP) saw the best duck race so far in the history of rubber duck racing on the Withlacoochee River at Yankeetown as a fundraiser on Sunday (Nov. 21).
This picture shows a human-sized duck mascot on the back of a boat as 642 rubber ducks are placed in the Withlacoochee River on Sunday (Nov. 21) to be carried by the flow of the river as the little rubber ducks race to the finish line. No rubber ducks were left behind in this valiant, fun and exciting fundraiser to help the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve.
Hardhats worn by the duck crew
Duck wranglers in action
In what has become a beloved tradition of fun and excitement, the Friends of the WGP sold a record 642 duck sponsorships.
The winning Duck was #585, sponsored by Andrea Rohback, and she won $200.
The last duck was #38, sponsored by Stacia Markowitz, and she won $50.
Weather and tidal conditions were near perfect on the Withlacoochee River for the annual WGP Duck Race.
There was a light tailwind and an outgoing tide. The peloton was dispersed, with no breakaway floaters. In the end, duck #585 edged out his nearest competitor. The mellow mallard, last place, floater this year was #38.
Kayakers from the Florida Paddling Trails Association helped with the duck wrangling this year. The Friends of the WGP note that they appreciate the donors who created such a large number of floaters. The little guys can get skittish after a big race.
Likewise, the Friends thank everyone for the support. It was indeed the best year ever for this Friends of the WGP fundraiser.
The Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve is a 413-acre parcel of undeveloped wetlands located on Florida’s Nature Coast. It consists of mixed hardwood, pine, and cabbage palm forest, tidal marshes and several salt ponds.
The Preserve has a 30-foot observation tower, a salt pond boardwalk, a Gulf of Mexico accessible canoe-kayak dock, and a 4,500 square-foot Education Center.
It is located at 1001 Old Rock Road, just off Levy County Road 40 West, in Yankeetown. The Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk.
This duck race is part of the big Lions Club Seafood Festival that happens every year (except if there is a global pandemic, etc.) in Yankeetown. This year, it was on Nov. 20 and 21.
Christmas Cash Contest announced
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 22, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.
THE INK PAD – The final contest for HardisonInk.com during 2021 is the Christmas Cash Contest.
This will be the first contest since the passing of Goldy the cat Hardison (Aug. 12, 2009-Aug. 25, 2021), senior mascot. She had been the main cat selecting winners during the past 11 years during her 12-year lifespan.
For this contest, it will be Inky the cat Hardison or Needles, the Community Cat of Jemlands, selecting the winner.
For all of the information about how to win the $100, see the display ad on the Leisure Page, below the ad by the Gilchrist County Tourist Development Council telling folks about reasons to visit Gilchrist County.
There is also a quick link to that ad for this contest on the Home Page in the upper right corner.
Levy County Commission
continues opposition to toll road
New NCBDC executive director named
By Jeff M. Hardison © Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:11 a.m.
BRONSON – Most of the first hour of a two-hour meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday (Nov. 16) was the commission listening to people oppose a toll road going through Levy County.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed toll roads being added in the state. In May of 2019, Gov. DeSantis signed Section 338.2278, which created the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program.
This program proposes that the Florida Department of Transportation build three new toll highways, which would permanently destroy some of the last remaining wild stretches of coastline in Florida. It is promoted as necessary for travel and economic development.
One of the three proposed roads, the Suncoast Connector, would slice through the Big Bend coastal region of northwest Florida and cause irreparable harm to the area’s pristine coastal waters and productive seagrass habitat.
As for the status of the governor and the FDOT’s plan right now, nothing appears to be clear. As he opened the meeting, Commission Chairman John Meeks made a point of letting everyone understand that he knows nothing more than what the FDOT has put out recently about the governor’s M-CORES Program.
Near the conclusion of the lengthy commentary by the public and the county commissioners, former Levy County Sheriff Johnny Smith expressed his appreciation to the County Commission for its continued stance against the toll road going through Levy County.
“Levy County is home to me,” Smith said. “I like our way of life here, and I don’t want it changed. And I think I can speak for many, many people here today.”
The former sheriff said he feels blessed to have a County Commission that stands up for its residents and visitors.
Among the other action by the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, it approved a request for the appointment of Dan Vaudreuil of ANCORP, 707 S.W. 19th Ave., Williston, to fill a board member position representing the private sector on the Nature Coast Business Development Council.
George Buckner III, a member of the NCBDC Board, introduced Scott Osteen, the new executive director of NCBDC.
The NCBDC met last month via Zoom. Among the people in attendance were Acting Chairman Buckner, a board member representing the private sector; Vandreuil, then set to be appointed to represent the private sector; Treasurer Bob Krefting, representing utilities; Dr. Philip R. Geist area director of the Small Business Development Center at University of North Florida in Ocala, and a board member representing no designated interest; Joyce Wilson, representing non-profits; Heidi Schwiebert, who was solicited to become a board member; Dorothy Pernu a board member representing utilities; Greg Galphin, a board member not noted as representing any interest; and Denny George, a board member representing utilities.
The representatives on the NCBDC for education and transportation were not present at the October meeting.
The organization is funded by the taxpayers of Levy County to seek new business to come into the county. It has had a variety of names and structures since its start in 1985 as the Levy County Development Authority.
It is known as a “public charity contracted to handle economic development on behalf of Levy County and its eight incorporated municipalities,” according information on the county government’s website.
As for the NCBDC website, it does not list the board members, much less what interests are to be represented on that board. The most recent previous executive director was by David Pieklik, who accepted a job with Citrus County government for economic development.
During the long period many people making statements against the toll road through Levy County, Scott Osteen, the newly appointed executive director of NCBDC, said he opposes it. County Commission Chairman Meeks said he appreciated the comment and reminded Osteen that he already has the job of helping attract economic growth in Levy County, intimating that there was no need to kowtow in public to the board that pays his salary.
The County Commission recently entered into an agreement with CareerSource Citrus, Levy, Marion, to provide benefits for the person in the executive director’s job of the NCBDC. CareerSource Citrus, Levy, Marion, is among the CareerSource units in Florida funded by state taxpayers to link business owners with employees.
Cross City celebrates Veterans Day
with a parade and ceremony
DAV gives Camp Valor $500
Musicians in the Dixie County High School Redcoat Regiment Marching Band march behind a banner in the 21st Annual Cross City Veterans Day Parade, while performing patriotic songs. The band members are talented musicians.
Photo By Terry Witt, HardisonInk Correspondent
© Nov. 12, 2021 at 5:11 p.m.
SEE THE WHOLE STORY AND
MORE PHOTOS ON THE COMMUNITY PAGE.
Levy County Wall Of Honor Expansion
Dedication Ceremony includes
Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee
Four vets who died
in the line of duty specifically honored
Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee addresses veterans and attendees on the importance of freedoms provided by voting. Among the duties of the Florida Secretary of State’s Office is voting in Florida.
Story and Photos
By C.L. Watson, HardisonInk.com Correspondent
© Nov. 11, 2021 at 5:11 p.m.
BRONSON – In her expansion of the Veterans Wall of Honor, which she established in the Levy County Courthouse lobby, Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones hosted the Veterans Wall of Honor Expansion Dedication Ceremony on Wednesday (Nov. 10).
Ladies in patriotic attire take time to look the Veterans Wall of Honor located at the front entrance of the Levy County Courthouse.
Levy County Commission Chairman John Meeks (at right) presents the plaque to the family of united States Army Private First Class Wardell 'Bubba' Borders.
Levy County Commissioner Matt Brooks, who is a veteran as well as being the great nephew of United States Navy Petty Officer First Class Joseph Plummer Brooks, presented the plaque to his family members.
(from left) Patty Steve, the mother of Lance Corporal Brian Buesing, stands with Levy County Commissioner Lily Rooks and Jimmy Jones. Jones, a veteran of the United States Navy’s Seabees, is the director of Levy County Construction and Maintenance, and has been very much a part of hanging the photos on the Veterans Wall of Honor.
United States Navy Petty Officer First Joseph Plummer Brooks, a veteran of the United States Navy who died in the line of duty during World War II, is honored through this memorial.
A display case near the Veterans Wall of Honor shows respect for Sgt. Karl A. Campbell, a man who died in the line of duty to preserve freedom in the United States of America.
A display case near the Veterans Wall of Honor shows respect for USMC Lcpl Brian Rory Buesing, a veteran who gave his life in service.
Levy County Director of Tourist Development Tisha Whitehurst serves guests patriotic cake and cookies following the dedication. Years ago, her predecessor Carol McQueen served punch and cake in the same courthouse lobby during various events. Levy County Clerk of the Court Danny Shipp has continuously and graciously provided support for all of the events to honor people that have been held in this courthouse for many years now.
The now expanded Veterans Wall of Honor is seen in the Levy County Courthouse lobby on both sides of the main entrance, which is now separate from the entrance for the courtrooms.
The theme for the ceremony Wednesday was “All Gave Some. Some Gave All.” The program highlighted the lives of four service members who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country – they gave their lives to protect and defend the freedoms Americans enjoy, as established in the United States Constitution.
Among the thoughts shares is that a debt of gratitude is owed to the country’s Gold Star families: parents, spouses, siblings and children who have lost a loved one while those soldiers were defending the liberties enjoyed in America.
Levy County’s Gold Star Families can take pride in knowing their loved ones left humanity with a legacy or honor.
The morning started with the Posting of Colors and The Pledge of Allegiance by the American Legion Post 236 Color Guard. An invocation by Pastor Chuck Cook from the Long Pond Baptist Church followed.
Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee was one of the guest speakers. She spoke on the importance of voting and thanked the veterans for their service.
The first service person honored was United States Army Private First Class, Wardell “Bubba” Borders. He attended Williston Vocational High School and served in the United States Army from 1963 to 1968. He specialized in light weapons infantry during the Vietnam War.
On May 15, 1968, PFC Wardell was killed in action near the South Vietnam province of Binh Duong.
United States Navy Petty Officer First Class Joseph Plummer Brooks from Williston was the second service person honored. PO Brooks served from 1942 to 1944. During World War II, he was stationed on the destroyer USS Cooper. It was torpedoed by a Japanese destroyer Take on Dec. 2, 1944. Brooks’ body was never found and declared dead on Dec. 3, 1944.
The third veteran recognized was United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal, Brian Rory Buesing from Cedar Key. He honorably served in the USMC from 2000 to 2003. While serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom, LCpl Buesing was killed in action on March 23, 2003, near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Lastly, United States Army Sergeant Karl A. Campbell who attended school in Chiefland was honored. He joined the Army in 1994 serving for eight years and took a short break of six years before rejoining the Army in 2009. While stationed in Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom, his unit was attacked by insurgents. He died from wounds suffered from the attack on Oct. 4, 2010.
State Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston) was a guest speaker who thanked the veterans for their service and highlighted the importance of America’s freedoms by voting.
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Jones closed the program and invited attendees to socialize and enjoy refreshments provided by the Levy County Visitors Bureau.
Levy County residents and their families who have served or are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces can provide the Levy County Supervisor of Elections office with a photograph to be displayed.
A biography form will need to be completed at the time of submission. The biography form can be found at https://www.votelevy.gov/. The completed form and photograph can be returned to the Levy County Supervisor of Elections office via mail, email, or by bringing it to the office in person.
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