FORT WALTON BEACH
Class action suit alleges abuse at reform school
Men who say they were severely abused as boys in Florida's reform-school system have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state. Bryant Middleton of Fort Walton Beach says the men known as the "White House Boys" want their abusers "to be brought to justice and to account for their crimes." The men claim they suffered abuse at the former Florida School for Boys in Marianna. Gov. Charlie Crist has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate more than 30 unmarked graves at the school. The lawsuit was filed in January.
Jimmy Ryce killer files a new appeal
A Cuban immigrant sentenced to death for sexually assaulting and killing 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce 14 years ago is appealing again. The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday. The justices denied an initial appeal from Juan Carlos Chavez. Jimmy was kidnapped near his home in rural Miami-Dade County. His name is on a law that keeps sexual predators in custody after completing their sentences.
Lawyer pleads to $82M bank fraud
A Sarasota lawyer has admitted to participating in an $82.7 million mortgage loan scheme that defrauded seven banks, authorities say. Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old John A. Yanchek pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements to a bank in connection with a commercial loan. The most serious offense, making false statements, carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The plea agreement says Yanchek and three other men conspired to get commercial loans to cover the purchase of vacant land in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The plan was to obtain loans in amounts that would let the conspirators purchase the property without down payments and then keep the extra money for themselves.
Abuser of disabled kids gets 20 years
A woman accused of abusing 11 disabled children she adopted — while pocketing more than $1 million in subsidies — has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Circuit Judge Robert Belanger on Wednesday called Judith Leekin's actions reprehensible and handed down the maximum punishment allowed in the plea agreement. Leekin, 63, pleaded no contest to four counts of aggravated child abuse and four counts of aggravated abuse of disabled adults. The adoptees are now in their teens and 20s. Leekin was arrested in July 2007 after police were called to a supermarket where authorities said she'd abandoned an 18-year-old girl. Authorities say they found the adopted children had been held like prisoners in Leekin's home, often handcuffed together and forced to soil themselves because they were not allowed to use the bathroom.