Brooksville man charged in beating, deputies say

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A Brooksville man was charged Saturday with aggravated assault and battery after beating a man with his fists and threatening him with a wooden stick, Hernando deputies said.

Cory Ray Griest was being held at the Hernando County Detention Center on $5,500 bond.

Griest attacked the man at his residence in the 1100 block of Jackson Avenue, deputies said.

During the attack, the victim grabbed a four-foot stick to defend himself and Griest took it from him and raised it over his head in an attempt to hit him, according to an arrest report.

The stick didn’t hit the victim but Griest stuck him with his fists several more times, causing injuries to the left side of his head, face and shoulder area, deputies said.

Three witnesses corroborated the victim’s report, deputies said.

Griest was found a short distance from the incident and arrested.

He told deputies he didn’t know what happened at the scene and had no contact with the victim, deputies said.

Woman gets 5 months for telling judge she works for DEA

BROOKSVILLE – A 36-year-old Spring Hill woman was arrested in a Hernando County courtroom Thursday after misrepresenting herself as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

During a domestic violence hearing in front of Circuit Judge Stephen Toner, Jo Leigh Allen said she was a federal DEA agent.
Jo Leigh Allen
Jo Leigh Allen

Judge Toner stopped the hearing, according to the sheriff’s office, and asked deputies to investigate her claim.

After finding out Allen was not in drug enforcement, Toner found her in direct civil contempt and sentenced her to 5 months and 29 days in the Hernando County Jail.

Court records show Allen filed the petition for a domestic violence injunction on Jan. 3. Records also show Allen filed an injunction in December, which was later dismissed.

Allen was arrested on charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle in November, and spent 33 days in the jail before prosecutors dropped the charges.

In the past, Allen has been convicted of falsely reporting a crime, driving with a suspended license, felony petit theft, grand theft, possession of a controlled substance, DUI, fleeing and eluding police, resisting an officer, possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to sell.

Bus driver flees when questioned about pot smell

It’s something out of an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Hernando High School’s Lady Leopard softball team beat the Lady Buccaneers 3-1 at Gulf High School Tuesday night, then loaded up their gear and headed to the bus for the hour-long ride home.

But there was something different about the school bus, the softball team noticed: that weed smell, according to witnesses at the scene.

For unspecified reasons, the driver, Donna Mae Rogers, 59, of Brooksville, came under heavy scrutiny, and fled when questioned by police.

She did not outrun the police, witnesses said.

“I was notified that we had a driver being arrested last night,” Transportation Director Doug Compton said.

“We sent another driver down to take care of the bus, and notified all the people we needed to notify, and sent it over to human resources.”

Stranded 40 miles from home in another county on a school night that was steadily approaching a school day, the student-athletes waited. Hernando High School coach and Athletic Director Kevin Bittinger declined comment.

Rogers was arrested Tuesday night by New Port Richey Police Department, charged Wednesday morning with one count of resisting arrest without violence, and was booked at the Land O’Lakes Detention Center, according to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

As of Wednesday morning, Rogers remains in the jail on $150 bond.

School Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said law enforcement responded quickly to the scene and that once the district sees the official charges and reports about the incident, they will convene and determine an appropriate course of action.

Blavatt also mentioned insurance charges the district could incur.

“I understand we’ll move forward with suspension from duty, and we will base a lot of it on what the sheriff’s office investigation has to say about the charges on the end of this one,” Blavatt said.

“With something like this, she’s certainly not going to go back behind the wheel with us.”

Compton said he notified the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and executive director of business services last night regarding Rogers’ arrest.

“Obviously we needed to send another driver down to take care of the bus,” he said.

(352) 544-5271

Brosher taken by Mets in draft’s final day

A historic 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft for Hernando County concluded on Saturday with Springstead first baseman/pitcher Brandon Brosher getting selected in the 36th round (1,076 overall) by the New York Mets.

Brosher is the first former Eagle to earn a selection since Steve Livesey in 1991, and only the third overall. Livesey was also taken out of high school in 1986, and J.D. Noland out of college in 1988.

The same draft that saw the county’s first player taken in the first round (Hernando’s Christian Arroyo) and first Nature Coast player ever picked (Mike Adams) also set a new county record with three selections.

This is also the first time the county has had two players picked within the top 10 rounds. Adams went in the seventh round.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Brosher, a right-hander, signed with Division I Oral Roberts University prior to his senior season, in which he hit .451 with four doubles, two triples and four home runs. He drove in 29 runs and scored 27 times.

On the mound, he went 5-3 with a 2.42 earned run average, striking out 81 batters in 55 innings.

Springstead head coach Jim Diven admitted that Major League teams may have been scared off by Brosher’s strong commitment to Oral Roberts.

“I thought he’d go between 5-10 (rounds). I don’t know what happened,” Diven said. “It didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. But I think they knew he wasn’t going to go unless they gave him a substantial amount of money.”

Still, Diven looked at Brosher’s drafting as another positive chapter in a season that included a district championship and the program’s first two regional victories. It was marred by a controversial Elite Eight loss at Orlando-Edgewater, a 6-5 defeat in a game shortened by rain.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Diven said of Brosher getting drafted. “It was an absolute storybook year for Springstead High School, even with the way it ended. It’s a season nobody will forget.

“Brandon, I think, will wind up in the pros someday. Brandon Brosher is a special guy and I will miss him next year dearly and sorely.”

Hernando’s Brandon Lawson, who went 11-0 with a 0.27 ERA as a senior this past season after signing with USF, did not end up getting picked, though he said in an email to Hernando Today that the opportunity presented itself.

“I got the call (Saturday) from the New York Mets in the 17th round asking if I would accept their offer to become their draft pick,” Lawson said, “but I declined the offer and I am going to college.”

(352) 544-5288

By the numbers: All-time Hernando County Draft Picks (June Amateur Draft)

Year Name School Team Round (Overall)

1976 Charles Farmer Hernando Detroit 9 (194)

1984 Mike Walker Hernando Montreal 14 (353)

1986 Eddie Looper* Hernando St. Louis 21 (546)

1986 Steve Livesey Springstead New York (AL) 29 (725)

1988 Tyrone Woods Hernando Montreal 5 (128)

1988 J.D. Noland* Springstead San Diego 13 (318)

1989 Avery Duval Hernando Texas 54 (1,334)

1991 Steve Livesey* Springstead New York (AL) 35 (907)

1993 Brent Stentz Hernando San Diego 45 (1,258)

1993 Landon Hessler Hernando Houston 23 (644)

1994 Landon Hessler* Hernando Minnesota 43 (1,184)

1994 Brent Stentz* Hernando Detroit 33 (921)

1995 Bronson Arroyo Hernando Pittsburgh 3 (69)

1998 Bert Snow* Hernando Oakland 10 (285)

2005 Dee Brown* Hernando Washington 10 (294)

2005 Patrick Ryan* Central Milwaukee 19 (565)

2011 Brett Maggard Hernando Philadelphia 38 (1,171)

2013 Christian Arroyo Hernando San Francisco 1 (25)

2013 Mike Adams* Nature Coast Boston 7 (203)

2013 Brandon Brosher Springstead New York (NL) 36 (1,076)

* Drafted out of college

Beryl gives Hernando much-needed soak

The beads of rain from Tropical Storm Beryl kept coming Monday and Tuesday, but emergency calls were at a minimum across Hernando County.

And while Memorial Day weekend was cut short for some people, there was optimism the rainfall would provide some long-awaited drought relief.

“Basically, we’re seeing some improvement from this,” said Paul Close, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. “The whole event has brought in a lot of rain.”

A flood warning remained in effect until late Tuesday afternoon as the last band of rain clouds – expected to bring another 2 to 3 inches – cascaded over the southern portion of the Nature Coast.

Some areas of northern Hernando got as much as 6 to 8 inches of rain, Close said.

About 3,000 customers with Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative were without power early Tuesday.

Another 250 customers with Progress Energy lost power during the second wave of rain that same afternoon. Most of the Progress Energy homes without power Tuesday were along the U.S. 98 corridor near Lake Lindsey, said company spokeswoman Suzanne Grant.

“We knew the possibility of this happening with all of the rain in the forecast,” she said. “We had extra crews standing by ready to respond.”

The low-lying areas of the county – from Ridge Manor to Pine Island – had some standing water.

Pine Island Drive was flooded Tuesday morning, but that was “not unexpected,” said Cecilia Patella, director of Hernando County Emergency Management.

At least one vessel – a 14-foot airboat along a Pine Island canal – was submerged by the rising waters. No injuries were reported.

Some typical low-lying areas, particularly along the east side of the county near the Withlacoochee River, did not flood because of the existing draught conditions.

“The river has been so dry there was plenty of room for rain,” Patella said.

Some trees fell over during the overnight storms, but everything was cleared by Tuesday morning.

“There was a little bit of street flooding, but no big complaints were called in,” said Lt. Michael Burzumato, a spokesman for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Beryl, which was downgraded to a tropical depression as of Tuesday, dumped large amounts of rain across northern Florida and southern Georgia. Some areas, including Jacksonville, received up to 10 inches of rain, according to weather reports.

Photograph Fred Bellet contributed to this report. (352) 544-5283

IB Programs and the Marxist revolution

I was thoroughly intrigued by the piece by Domenick J. Maglio, traditional realist and conservative revisionist, about the indoctrinating Marxist doctrines set forth by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program.

Reading Mr. Maglio’s analysis brought forth the image of a modern day Paul Revere, pocket Constitution in hand, shouting “the Marxists are coming, the Marxists are coming,” all while driving a non-Hybrid SUV, blasting a John Philip Sousa march and sporting a plethora of anti-Obama and “Take America Back!” bumper stickers that resemble more of a right-winged Picasso than a rear window.

Mr. Maglio’s ignorant rhetoric is reminiscent of Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic Catholic Priest, who drew upon American emotions and fears to draw opposition to New Deal programs during the Great Depression.

Fear is a powerful vehicle to further ignorance and intolerance, as Maglio’s article clearly reflects. As concerned students, parents and stakeholders in this community, I am sure you are asking the obvious. Does the IB Program truly advance a leftist agenda? As an IB teacher in the greater Tampa area, I would like to provide some insight.

I woke up this morning and felt absolutely no need to recite passages from the Communist Manifesto to acquire inspiration for the day. Nor did I feel compelled to throw darts at a life-size Joe “the plumber” poster. I certainly did not entertain the idea of attending my community HOA meeting and suggest plotting a coup of the HOA president or organize my gated community into communes.

When I review my lesson plans, they do not include any learning objectives that focus on the principles of income redistribution, advocating the merits of anarchy or evening trampling on the U.S. Constitution.

However, according to Mr. Maglio, all IB students are “indoctrinated” to learn a history from a Marxist perspective and are “being propagandized to despise their own country.” I do have a few questions for Mr. Maglio. Did he ask any students of their IB experience? Has Mr. Maglio attended IB training to verify his suspicion of Marxist driven goals? Where on the IB website does it advocate “One-World Government Rule?” What data has he uncovered to support his views?

The IB program encourages students to become well-rounded learners. Over the course of a two-year curriculum, they acquire skills, strategies, maturity, drive and initiative — American qualities. Their success in the program hinges upon their individual ability to succeed, much like the framework of a free-market system.

Nothing is given to them and yet everything is expected. They are academic entrepreneurs seeking to blaze their own path through life. They exit the program as life-long learners with a greater understanding of the “course of human events” and in possession of certain qualities that makes them not left or right but future contributors to our American society.

In closing, the only ideological conspiracy present in the IB program is the right-wing fear mongering orchestrated by Domenick Maglio as presented in his editorial “contribution.”

Thankfully, the same Constitution and republican form of government that Mr. Maglio claims to be trampled by the IB Program protects us from the unbridled passions of individuals such as himself.

Thank you, Mr. Maglio, for presenting a forum to discuss such a “heated” and “conspiratorial” topic. Free thinkers of the world, Unite!

Clifford L. Wagner

IB coordinator,

Springstead High School

‘Rachel’s Law’ provides uniform standards for police informants

Larry was in trouble.

Soon after leaving a drug dealer’s house, deputies pulled him over for a traffic violation.

They found cocaine.

But instead of going straight to jail, Larry was brought to the sheriff’s office. A detective offered him a deal: Work for us and we’ll give you a break.

Faced with three felonies, Larry agreed. He called the dealer, Brock Shade, again. A rendezvous was set up. Around 9 p.m., Larry met up with the detectives in a church parking lot, not far from Shade’s house in Da Mac Estates, north of Brooksville.

Larry was patted down to make sure he was drug-free. His car was also thoroughly searched for contraband. Satisfied, detectives wired Larry with a receiver about the size of a cigarette box. He was given $30.

At Shade’s house, the cash was exchanged for powder cocaine. Larry returned to the church and the drug was turned over to detectives. His work was done.

Larry’s name is fictional. His role in dismantling one of the largest drug rings in the county’s history is not.

As a confidential informant, Larry was one of a handful of people detectives used to gather intelligence and buy drugs during a months-long investigation in 2007. Shade was determined to be a top lieutenant in the ring that had ties to Polk County cop-killer Angilo Freeland.

Both Brooksville police and the sheriff’s office use people like Larry on a regular basis to assist in their investigations. Both agencies have protocol and procedure for their use, but up until recently there was no statewide standard.

“Rachel’s Law,” which goes into effect today, changes that. It’s named after Rachel Hoffman, 23, a confidential informant who was shot to death during a police-authorized drug buy in 2008.

The law requires police to inform a potential informant they do not have the authority to change the outcome of pending charges. Only judges and prosecutors can do that. Candidates also have the right to consult an attorney before agreeing to a deal.

Police also have to weigh the candidate’s background, including their maturity level and their history with substance abuse.

Neither of Hernando County’s agencies could foresee major changes to their existing policies. Both embraced the push for increased security.

“We’ve always had that high on our priority list,” said Police Chief George Turner.

At the sheriff’s office, confidential informants are assigned numbers for report purposes and their true identities are kept in a locked file cabinet.

When it comes to screening potential informants, Capt. James Walker at the sheriff’s office said there is “quite a review process.”

“We look at the totality of circumstances,” he said.

Candidates also have to sign a waiver, acknowledging that they don’t work for the sheriff’s office and that they cannot engage in any illegal activity while on the job.

They also cannot coerce or threaten anyone to commit crimes they are not already doing or capable of doing.

As Turner points out, confidential informants are not altruistic citizens trying to do a good deed. They’re usually in it to work off serious criminal charges.

But, Turner said, “information is power. And in this business, we need all the information we can get.”

Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or

Panhandling A Common Sight

Heather Hasenstaub feels sharp pain each day.
She cannot walk without a cane. She recently suffered burn injuries on her right arm and leg. Three of her top teeth were broken during a fall. She was trying to escape a burning house.
Doctors advised her not to be on her feet for more than 15 minutes at a time.
She stands on street corners for up to five hours straight. Her house was gutted due to the fire, and she is not receiving any government aid in spite of her physical difficulties, she said.
It is either beg for money or go hungry.
The physical pain is one thing. Her self-esteem hurts more.
“This is humiliating,” Hasenstaub said as she stared blankly toward Shady Hills Road. “When I was better off, I used to see people with these signs and automatically assume they were hustling.”
Solicitation along medians, streets and highways is illegal in Hernando County. The statute is meant to “prevent dangers to persons and property, to prevent delays and to avoid interference with the traffic flow,” the law states.
Cities across the country are looking to crack down on panhandling, including High Point, N.C., Spokane, Wash., and Des Moines, Iowa.
Sheriff’s deputies have told Hasenstaub, 33, and her family to move elsewhere. They stand on the Pasco County side of the road and have been seen there for several weeks.
Most motorists stop at the traffic light and anxiously look ahead. They pretend they don’t see Hasenstaub, or her fiancée and 17-year-old daughter.
Some give cash and coins, but it seems most people who acknowledge them are not feeling as charitable.
Hasenstaub and her daughter, Tiffany Heitz, 17, will see obscene gestures or hear screams and swearing.
“I’ve seen people I’ve known before and they’re laughing at me,” said Heitz. “It’s an eye-opener. You have no idea how hard it is.”
Her body aches every day. She is often joined by her boyfriend. They will either stay at a friend’s house or sleep in a two-door Chevrolet Monte Carlo along with her mother and fiancé. It is difficult for four people to sleep in a small-sized sedan, she said.
Hasenstaub said their home was damaged by fire several months ago, but she couldn’t recall the exact date. Neither could her fiancé. But that’s not how they lost their home.
The concrete walls were salvaged, they said, but the floor, ceiling and interior required a lot of repair. They didn’t have insurance, so they tried to live in their scorched home amidst the smell of burned wood and ashes.
The house, which is located in Gulf Highlands in Port Richey, eventually was foreclosed.
Whenever Hasenstaub and her daughter see a school bus heading toward them along County Line Road, they will turn around and hide in the bushes, she said.
The high school students are the worst hecklers.
One day, Hasenstaub was struck in the forehead by a quarter. The person who threw it yelled, “Get a job!”
“My feelings were hurt more than anything,” she said.
Less than five miles away from where Hasenstaub and her family stood Wednesday morning was another panhandler.
Jim Hughes, 52, was at the corner of Barclay Avenue and Spring Hill Drive. He was looking for money and a ride to Port Charlotte. But first, he wanted to get a drink and find someone willing to drive him to U.S. 41.
He has a post office box in Port Charlotte, he said. He also likes the food served by the homeless shelter there, not to mention the showering facilities he can use along the way in Sarasota.
It was mid-morning and he already smelled of alcohol. The money he collected that day – about $12 – was going to be spent on booze at the nearby 7-Eleven. He admitted it.
“I want to find work,” he said when asked what he ultimately wants. “I want to get off the street.”
He pulled a cigarette from a pack of Pall Malls he was given earlier that day.
Hughes wore a red and white baseball cap, blue jeans, black tennis shoes, a blue T-shirt and a leather jacket. The clothes looked relatively new.
The rest of him looked ragged. He had not showered in more than two weeks and he had dirt under his fingernails. His brown and gray beard extended to his breast bone.
Hughes spent the previous night in jail. He was arrested in Spring Hill for public drunkenness, he said.
“The nurse told me I stunk,” he said. “I told her, ‘You walk 25 or 35 miles a day for two weeks and see if you stink.'”
Hughes was standing on the median across from Advanced Auto Parts. He crossed the street and sat down on the curb along the parking lot.
He clutched a sign that read, “On the road. I need help. God bless you.” It also contained a peace sign.
At that moment, Mary Beers, of Spring Hill, pulled over in her Chevrolet sport utility vehicle and gave Hughes a $5 bill.
He kissed her hand twice.
“Get something to eat and buy a lottery ticket – a scratch off or something,” Beers told him. “You might get lucky.”
“I just got lucky,” he said.
Another woman pulled up a minute later and gave him two more dollars. She wished him a Merry Christmas.
Hughes said he used to be a machine operator for a furniture chain while he lived in North Carolina.
During the last 10 years, he has been living in various places across the country – mostly in the South. He lives off what people give him. He spends most of it on liquor and beer, he said.
“I don’t have any choice,” when asked why he solicits along street corners. “I have no money.”

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

Gas Still Reaching Record Levels

TAMPA – Gasoline prices have constantly been setting new records and this week will be no exception, according to AAA Auto Club South.

Crude oil inventories are rising and demand is down, but OPEC output for March is at its lowest point in five years, according to a AAA media release. As a result, retail fuel prices are expected to rise.

The average price for a gallon of regular gas in Florida is $3.38. That is 13 cents higher than it was March 1 and 60 cents higher than a year ago.