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Last Friday, a federal court judge dismissed the complaint that Jeremy Banks, the St. Johns County Sheriffs deputy best known as the boyfriend of Michelle O’Connell — who may or may not have committed suicide back in September 2010 — filed last year against Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Rusty Rodgers, Folio Weekly has learned. That complaint alleged that Rodgers lied to and manipulated O’Connell’s family members into believing that Banks had killed her, and made false and derragotory statements about Sheriff David Shoar, including that he was helping cover up a homicide by one of his deputies. 

"Over a year ago,” Shoar said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed, “I personally made a complaint to FDLE regarding the egregious behavior of Rusty Rodgers and [fellow FDLE Agent] Dominic Pape during the investigation of the death of Michelle O'Connell. While Rodgers is currently the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation for 'official misconduct,' I am grateful the civil cases are moving forward to ultimately bring justice and closure to all involved."

On Feb. 13, U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis dismissed Banks’ complaint without prejudice, which means Banks will have the opportunity to refile by March 5. In essence, Davis ruled in his seven-page order that Banks did not come close to establishing the probable cause the court needed to move the case forward. 

“The Court is mindful that proof is not required at this juncture of the case,” Davis wrote. “Nevertheless, Rule 8 requires a short plain statement sufficient to put Defendant on notice of facts or inferences from them which makes the absence of probable cause plausible. The allegations of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint simply fail to accomplish that requirement.” 

We will update as we learn more. 

*This post and headline were updated to reflect the fact that the …   More


JaxPort’s Board of Directors have voted unanimously to inform the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it wants to dredge the harbor to no less than 47 feet deep to keep the port competitive.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had recommended Monday that the St. Johns River shipping channel be dredged from its current 40-foot depth to 45 feet deep. Port members, however, said recommended depth is not deep enough for the port to service larger cargo ships from Asia.

The JaxPort board members said they think the 47-feet depth is needed to keep Jacksonville competitive to other East Cost ports.

The federal government will pay 75 percent of the cost to dredge up to 45 feet. Anything deeper than that depth could be paid for with state, federal, local or private funds.

There were no cost figures discussed at Monday’s meeting. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will release the draft results of its harbor deepening study in May.




Though he is widely considered to be the missing link in the Jacksonville Jaguars quest to gain relevance (win/loss record be damned), the former Northeast Florida prep star, Heisman trophy winner, and God’s chosen signal caller was unable to secure a supporting role in Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles offense, which was virtually invented for his brand of play.



Grab your guns, crank up the truck and blast the Skynyrd, Duval, cause the South is gon’ rise again! Well, sort of … and, OK, this time, we’re technically going to be the North … oh, and it’s not a secession, really … and it’s not really our idea, but … but … Free Bird!

The real issue at hand is that a group of politicians in South Miami are essentially sick and tired of the northern part of Florida leaving them out to dry (or actually the opposite of that) when it comes to climate change issues in the southern part of the state. In response, they’ve proposed a bold but completely Florida-esque solution: Split the state in half and create their own state of “South Florida,” which would thus become the 51st state … if you count both Dakotas, but really, what’s the point of that? 

To answer your first question: no, this isn’t a story from The Onion. (This is, though.) This call for the legal separation of Florida into two separate states was actually cooked up — with delicious Cuban spices, I presume — by the mayor and city commission of South Miami. The threat of rising sea levels as a result of global warming, and the rest of the state’s blase attitude toward said crisis, was cited as the reason behind the proposal, which would slice Florida in half like a ripe grapefruit from approximately Orlando down.

Wait, Orlando? Oh no, you didn’t! You can take our beautiful Everglades National State Park away from us, but DO NOT FUCK with Mickey Mouse or our chintzy discount brand outlet stores!

From the Sun-Sentinel:

Orange County is particularly important because that's where the South Florida Water Management District begins, [Vice Mayor Walter] Harris said. It was even suggested that a Central Florida city could possibly be the state of South Florida's capitol.

Given the large number of Baptist churches here in North Florida, …   More


The nomadic 5 & Dime is pressing us out of our comfort zone again on a subject many Americans try to bury and ignore — race.

In April, Al Letson’s John Coffey Refuses to Save the World reminded us how popular stories skew our views with imaginary, magical Negroes. Now, director Rick De Spain and company unleash the Pulitzer and Tony award-winning Clybourne Park, which hits close to home on white privilege, institutional racism and the pursuit of the American Dream.

For artistry, ambition and strong acting as a group, The 5 & Dime scores again, with a creative team that must be applauded not only for their execution but also for their aspiration.

The romance of this troupe must be weighed against the hardships that come from acting without a home. All of Jacksonville’s makeshift stages come with their impediments.

In the John Coffey production at the Museum of Science & History, the short stage proved a hindrance, though the gamble to use the Planetarium’s wizardry was inspired.

At the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, space is less of a problem, but the gallery-turned-stage loses its charm in a matinee — as light peeks in from those celebrated gardens.

Supporting players Josh Waller, Lindsay Curry and Larry Knight hold our gaze with every second they’re on stage, helping Clybourne Park overcome the chaos inherent in its script.

Local favorite Josh Waller — sure to be in the running for Best Actor in Folio Weekly’s Best of Jax contest (end shameless plug) — plays the segregationist Karl, the entitled protector of the Clybourne property values. Somehow, he injects humor into this offensive, racist character.

Curry hits every note with spot-on comedic timing in both roles — as Karl’s deaf wife Betsy in Act I and as the apologetic “I once dated a black man” Lindsey in Act II. The expressive and charming Knight delivers his own humor …   More


The temporal, fragile, and exacting nature of performance, but of dance specifically, extends to the viewer a kind of ascetic and athletic virtue that is removed from linear time. Or at least that is the feeling created by the recent performances of Rebecca Levy, Tiffany Fish, and Katie McCaughan's dance company, Jacksonville Dance Theatre.

Presented at the Munnerlyn Center for Worship and Fine Arts on the campus of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville on the evening of May 30, the company’s third annual concert was moving and varied. Transitioning between quiet and still works that carried an air of sanctity, to pieces like Thirst that thrummed with energy and vibrancy, the entire experience was one that reinforced the extraordinary nature of dance. It featured group works that sublimated the personal to an overarching form, and it also showed the power of one or two dancers works in unison and opposition.

Watching the duet, Finding an Opening was like bearing witness to private, sacred acts that somehow in their beauty affirm the very world itself. This work specifically, and The place of the end not imagined (which followed it), felt as if they occupy the spot in the world once held by sacred mysteries enacted with solemn ritual to ensure the continuity of the universe. As Opening began, a cloud hovered near the ceiling of the stage, and as it slowly dissipated, unwinding like a thread made of dandelion fuzz, two figures unfolded from the far (left) side of the stage. They moved through a series of motions that were at once playful and loaded, all of gravity and the essence of light. Watching it gave rise to the thought that if music is universal, and visual art and life intersect with life, then is dance not that sacred thing that can transmute into quiet or raucous spaces/stories and be made luminous flesh.

Levy, Fish, and McCaughan are all engaged in the Jacksonville dance community through teaching and choreographing, and this important …   More


Another home game for the Jacksonville Jaguars, another chance for Blake Bortles to make the leap. This game was the biggest start in his young career.

Why? Because the Dolphins are arguably the Jaguars’ biggest rivals, if for no other reason than proximity. And Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, in many ways, is an analog for Bortles: a young, up-and-down quarterback who can run if he needs to (both were top-five QB rushers coming in). Tannehill has looked increasingly sharp this year, but the jury was out on both of them coming into Sunday’s clash.

And it still is afterward. Tannehill was yet another quarterback who floundered in the face of an initially opportunistic Jags D (just 56 yards allowed in the first half). And Bortles? A dumpster fire. Yes, he threw two long touchdown passes. Both, however, went to Dolphins defenders.

Some missed opportunities for Jags’ offense were not on Bortles, such as the bomb Allen Robinson dropped on the first drive that should have been caught. For every one of those, though, there were things like the two pick-sixes — Bortles’ 11th and 12th of the year, even though he didn’t start until Week 4 — and the fumble in the second quarter. At times, especially on third down, he looked Gabbertesque. Except Gabbert never had a running back like Denard (apologies to MJD apologists).

The Jags opened up the route tree in the third quarter, going deep, which only exposed Bortles as the Dolphins stopped respecting the run and blitzed.

As the game progressed, Gus Bradley looked less and less like an NFL coach. More Tom Arnold than Tom Landry, Gus’ team once again looked outmatched in the second half. What was a winnable game at intermission was over long before the third quarter ended. Tannehill sharpened up as the fourth quarter commenced, one-liners and fart wafts filled the press box, and a “Let’s Go Dolphins” chant pervaded the cleaner air outside it.

On a day …   More


A mixture of local talent and world-renowned experts are scheduled to give talks at the TEDx Jacksonville Connecting Currents event, to be held Oct. 26 on WJCT's sound stage.

Participants include Barbara Colaciello, Jacksonville Beach actor, playwright and storyteller; Hank Coxe, a Jacksonville attorney; Nancy Soderberg, UNF professor and former UN ambassador and White House advisor; Bruce Ganger, executive director of Second Harvest North Florida; Ben Warner, president and CEO of Jacksonville Community Council.

Also, Matt Rutherford, the first person to complete nonstop single-handed voyages around North and South America; former U.S. Rep. Robert Inglis, with the distinction of being uninvited to the Tea Party; TEDGlobal Fellow Aman Mojadidi, an American Southerner born to Afghan parents; Chevara Orrin, a black Jewish mother, activist and survivor who will discuss simple human interaction; Lawanda Ravoira, an expert on challenges girls in the juvenile justice system face; and Patricia Siemen, a Dominican sister and attorney who will discuss the long-term ecological health of the Earth.



As a reader, you might only think about Folio Weekly’s Best of Jax twice a year: once when you vote and again when you pick up the issue or go to the website to find out who won.

But here at Folio Weekly’s international headquarters, we’ve been working on Best of Jax for months.

It begins in May when we start compiling the list of categories for the ballot and decide which ones to keep, which ones to cut and which ones to add.

In June, we brainstorm several ideas for themes. This year, our passion for “Game of Thrones” pushed us to pick royalty. At that time, we create a logo for that year’s awards.

In July, we create the online ballot and launch it by the end of the month. While all of you are busy voting in August, we’re searching for models and props to bring our theme to life.

When voting ends, we start tabulating the votes. Because the ballot is open-ended and people can type in anything they want, it takes time to comb through each answer and add it to the appropriate place. It’s a laborious but somewhat humorous task sifting through the creative spellings of Northeast Florida’s favorites. But every vote counts!

Meanwhile, we shoot photos for the cover and topic headers that run inside. We shoot everything in at least two ways so we have different poses for the two Best of Jax issues — this year on Oct. 9 and Oct. 16.

Once we have a list of winners in early September, we assign writers to research and summarize their laurels in individual blurbs. Our staff photographer shoots more than 50 winners in four counties in about three weeks’ time.

Then, we compile and edit all the text and photos into the first and second Best of Jax issues. Once those are designed, proofed and printed, we still have to upload it all online.

We also produce laminated posters and door stickers for winners to hang with pride.

It all seems worth it when we get to celebrate with the winners at the Best of Jax party.

After a few …   More


Around the time that a suburb half a country away was exploding last Monday night, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer named J.C. Garcia tried to pull over a car driven by a man named Brian Dennison, whose 6-year-old daughter was in his car, after he cut through a parking lot trying to avoid a traffic light.

The police say that Dennison didn’t stop when Garcia pulled up behind him, and continued driving all the way to his apartment complex. According to Dennison’s family, the 31-year-old was in a rush to get home because his daughter was having an asthma attack. Dennison got out of his car; one family member told News4Jax that he stuck his hands out of the car window and said, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot. I got my daughter in the car.”

Garcia claimed he saw a gun. He pulled his service weapon and fired a shot. 

Dennison — who, fortunately, was not harmed — did not have a weapon. He was, however, arrested on misdemeanor charges. The family is demanding answers.

If history is any indicator, they won’t get them.

Between 1999 and 2013, Florida cops in 110 different law enforcement agencies were involved in 574 homicides that were deemed justified, according to an investigation by NBC 6 South Florida. Of those, 42 cases involved the JSO, the second-highest total of any police agency in the state, behind only the Miami-Dade Police Department. That number is spiking, too — up from just 14 incidents in ’99 to 67 in 2012 and 58 last year — along with a pronounced, concomitant spike in civilian justified homicides that began around 2006 (thank you, Stand Your Ground), even as violent crime rates here and nationwide have plummeted since 1993.

If you’ve reported on cops for any amount of time, as I have, you know how rare it is for police agencies to decide that one of their own did anything wrong, ever, no matter the evidence — like Sasquatch-spotting rare. A few …   More