Jury recesses in 2015 drug-buy slaying near Florida Atlantic University

Henry (PBSO photo)
Henry (PBSO photo)

A jury Thursday morning recessed for the week in the first-degree murder trial of Donovan Henry, the alleged mastermind behind a robbery last Dec. 29 near Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton that left 19-year-old FAU student Nicholas Acosta dead.

Acosta
Acosta

Boca Raton police say Henry went to the University Park apartments that night to buy marijuana from Acosta, a fellow student. Acosta’s girlfriend, Kayla Bartosiewicz, opened the door for Henry, whom she recognized from a party, she told police.

Once Henry was inside, the rest of the men came in wearing masks and hoodies. Rodrick Woods shot Acosta twice, took a bag of marijuana and the group left, police said.

Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes has argued that, while Henry did not pull the gun, he was the mastermind because he knew Acosta and wanted his stash of marijuana.

Defense Attorney Scott Skier argued the state presented no evidence to prove Henry planned the robbery. He said the testimony they were relying on against his client was that of Woods, a convicted murderer. Woods, identified as the gunman, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony against the other men. Woods has said Henry asked him to help steal the marijuana from Acosta.

Ex-prosecutor: Palm Beach County government should pay criminal panel salaries

Van Arnam (Eliot Kleinberg/Post Staff)
Van Arnam (Eliot Kleinberg/Post Staff)
BarryKrischer052316
Krischer (Eliot Kleinberg/Post Staff)

Salaries for the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission should come out of a special taxing district or the general county budget, not from trust fund dollars that could be spent on crime prevention, former State Attorney Barry Krischer said Monday.

The commission’s proposed $3.63 million 2016-2017 budget – which the board preliminary approved at its meeting Monday — includes $531,383 in paychecks for Executive Director Kristina Henson and the CJC’s eight other staffers.

Of that, $241,970 comes from the Crime Prevention Trust Fund, a fund criminal defendants pay into as part of their penalties.

Krischer, who’s the commission’s treasurer, said that “for us to be taking crime prevention dollars and spending them on salaries  is unacceptable.” He said this is happening “as we have seen these grant dollars shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking.”

Krischer said after the meeting he’s been lobbying for the special taxing district for close to two decades.

Deputy County Administrator Jon Van Arnam, sitting in at Monday’s meeting, told members the county is just now starting to assemble its 2016-2017 budget but noted that a combination of county taxes, grants and trust fund dollars will fully pay for next year’s drug court and criminal re-entry programs.

“You may not be totally pleased, but I think the budget picture is a little brighter than you portrayed it,” Van Arnam said.

“So,” commission Chair Lee Waring said, “our message to Jon and commissioners is, ’Thank you for your efforts, and keep it going, because we do need the help.”

Also Monday, the CJC voted to recommend Kevin Jones, assistant pastor at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, as its clergy representative. County commissioners make the pick.

Palm Beach County tweaks down its figures for cost of jailing minor pot offenders

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
Van Arnam
Van Arnam

County managers now say the cost of housing people caught with small amounts of pot is less than a third of what a study previously had concluded.

In an overview provided last week to Palm Beach County Commissioners, deputy county manager John Van Arnam said a Criminal Justice Commission review showed the county spent $1.1 million over the last seven years to jail people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana.

But in an update sent out Monday, Van Arnam said Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officials challenged the math, saying the county should examine only the cost of housing people arrested just for misdemeanor possession. Using that calculation, the total came to only $322,245.

County commissioners passed an ordinance last year that would mean a fine or community service instead of jail time for those caught with 20 grams or less. But the PBSO  said it

Taylor
Taylor

would continue to enforce tougher state laws that make possession of small amounts of pot a criminal offense.

County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who ordered the review, has argued the money spent jailing people picked up for simple possession be pulled from PBSO’s budget and come out of its pocket.

Annual jailing costs — calculated down from last week’s figure of $159,000 to $46,035 — are a tiny fraction of PBSO’s massive budget, $560 million in the 2016 budget year.