Archive for April, 2009

The Presidential Transition Story & How I See Reactions to the Ayala Story

Posted in ayala, blog-related, elections on April 21, 2009 by Brandon
An illustration of Student Body President Abe Cohen and SBP-Elect Tiffany Weimar. The original image featured Cohen handing off a partially-sculted clay owl, but was changed when it seemed a lot of people didn't "get" the owl. (Illustration by Adam Sheetz)

An earlier image featured Student Body President Abe Cohen handing off a partially-sculted clay owl to President-elect Tiffany Weimar, but was changed to this when it seemed a lot of people didn't "get" the owl. (Illustration by Adam Sheetz)

The cover story this week is mine again, though it’s just a Q&A — it fell out that way when the Ayala thing came up. This story otherwise would’ve run last week.

Not much to add to it, except there will be more questions in the online version than were in the print version, because of space constraints. As it is, I cut out about half and it still ended up running across two spreads in the issue, with the second spread being almost exclusively text. So, if you’re really interested or if you find it more readable online, I’d certainly recommend you take that route.

On a somewhat related note, the stress week dunk tank thing I mentioned yesterday fell through. There’s a couple kind of funny notes about this. For one, the initial e-mail (mirrored identically in the only MyFAU announcement about it) sent to people in SG and student agencies about the event didn’t mention the location, and nobody noticed until I had to specifically ask for it. It was also mentioned at the Boca House meeting last week, but I don’t know if it’s been promoted actively anywhere outside of SG.

I guess in that sense — if nobody knows about or expects it — it can’t be much of a let down that it was cancelled. (“For the immediate future, due to the rain,” by the way.) But in another sense, it ties into my line of questioning in the Q&A this week. It leaves me wondering how events are going to be planned and promoted in the future. I hope there will be contingency plans for rain, and promotions will let students know where to go: especially when it costs student money.

I also mentioned that I wanted to revisit the Ayala story for a bit. So let me talk about that. If I’d had the time and we had more issues to print this semester, I would’ve written this as a more polished column. Coulda shoulda woulda, this is what I’ve got, and it’s a bit of a read, so click to continue if you care. Continue reading


Happy Finals Week!

Posted in ayala, blog-related, elections, legal on April 20, 2009 by Brandon

It’s definitely that time of the semester, when the check for all our academic slacking comes due. Hopefully you’re in less time-debt than me. Sorry for not updating sooner.

If you’re stressed out, SG is inviting you to take it out on them tomorrow. If you visit the Free Speech Lawn (between the Social Sciences and General Classroom South Buildings) between 11 and 3, you can take a shot at dunking SG leaders and a couple people from Student Affairs. I’ve heard they’re taking donations for charity.

If there’s someone in particular you want to drench, here’s the schedule.

11-11:30 – Director of Multicultural Affairs, Dr. Rozalia Williams
11:30-noon – Boca Student Body Governor and President-elect, Tiffany Weimar
Noon-12:30 – Current Student Body President Abe Cohen
12:30-1 – Director of Housing Larry Faerman
1:30-2:15 – Director of Greek Life Ryan O’Rourke
2:15-3 – Associate Dean of Student Affairs Terry Mena

Too bad I can’t throw worth a damn.

I should also give an update about the election stuff: the Jupiter governor’s race is close to a wrap, and will probably end Wednesday. A quick recap.

The original university-wide election ended on Feb. 26, with these results for Jupiter governor.

Tara Boulos: 96 votes (36%)
Jordy Yarnell: 84 votes (31%)
Manesh Gopaldas: 67 votes  (25%)
Alex Lange: 21 votes (8%)

The rules say the winner has to have a majority of the vote, and so there was a run-off between the top two candidates. This run-off wasn’t held until everything with the presidential race played out, and it ended on April 2 with this result:

Tara Boulos: 102 votes (52%)
Jordy Yarnell: 96 votes (48%)

So 70 fewer people voted in the run-off and there was a six-vote spread, meaning if four people had voted differently, Jordy could have won.

Naturally, this result was contested with the election board, which dismissed everything. Then it was appealed to the student court. Sound familiar? The student court had a hearing this past Friday and upheld the elections board decision on four of the five contestations, remanding one to the election board for reconsideration. The one they sent back was the claim that one of Boulos’ flyers said Student Body Vice President (and ex-Jupiter governor himself) Ed Fulton endorsed her.

The election board can do what it wants here: dismiss it again, disqualify Boulos, award additional votes for compensation, hold another run-off… Whatever they decide, it’s the final word, unless Yarnell appeals to Student Affairs, which can only be done on grounds of due process. If there’s another run-off, SG Adviser Rivka Felsher says it won’t be until May, which means this election will have run most of the semester and outlasted it. It seems like most people just want it over.

Speaking of things people want over, I think I need to say more about the Ayala story; not a news update, but personal comments about reactions I’ve gotten to it. I’ll do that tonight or tomorrow, with a couple other things.

Good luck with your finals and papers. And happy dunking.

Ayala Remainders

Posted in ayala, blog-related, legal on April 14, 2009 by Brandon
A photo illustration of Ayala looking through the bars at the playground visible from his Boca apartment. (Photo by Liz Dzuro, Photo illustration by Adam Sheetz)

A photo illustration of Ayala looking through the bars at the playground visible from his Boca apartment. (Photo by Liz Dzuro, Photo illustration by Adam Sheetz)

My cover story on the Ayala arrest is out today. If you haven’t picked up a print copy, you can read it online here. The print is worth it for the two illustrations, though, one of which you see here.

If you’ve been following along on the blog, you won’t see a whole lot of new information — I felt keeping people informed as I went was the right thing to do in this case.

There are a few things to add or reiterate at this point, though.

First, for those first visiting the blog and looking for the police report, it’s here. Expect explicit language.

Second, I said a few things in the story were “as of press time” which for the UP typically means Friday at 5 p.m. Those things are still true today: Ayala hasn’t been bailed out and hasn’t contacted us about visitation. A week and a half after his arrest, it’s probably safe to say he doesn’t want to talk to anybody.

Third, the public defender’s office got back to me and pretty much told me they can’t get back to me. Yet.

From an e-mail with the chief of the felony division: “At this time we have not received authorization to disclose anything about this client or his case, but I have forwarded your e-mail to the attorney assigned.”

So that’s that, for now. I’ll be attending the court hearing in May if possible, and this case will be followed, but for now, there’s not a whole lot more to say, news-wise.

But I’d like to briefly address some of the attitudes and beliefs I’ve seen in the comments. I’m not going to slog through them and directly address specific people, especially since most of you post anonymously and/or as multiple people, but a couple  of points.

Continue reading

Ayala, Ctd.

Posted in ayala, legal on April 9, 2009 by Brandon

If you’re new to the whole issue, start here and find more updates here and here. For those anxious to see the police report, I’ve scanned the three pages of it. I haven’t altered it in any way from what the police department handed me. It should go without saying, but expect explicit (although relatively clinical) language.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

OwlTV has also posted a video about Ayala.

It’s been a long, hectic day. We’ve gotten no response from Ayala, who’s still in jail. He should’ve received our letter requesting visitation rights by now, but when we called to ask this afternoon, the operator refused to answer whether he had or hadn’t. Basically, we won’t know anything unless Ayala calls us.

I tried to contact the president of Ayala’s frat, Pi Kappa Alpha, also known as the Pikes. I asked if we could speak to him on or off the record. The response: “NO” and nothing more. Greek Life Coordinator Ryan O’Rourke suggested that the local chapter may have been advised on the matter by its national counterpart, and so my editor called to ask. They acknowledged they’d heard about Ayala and had advised the local Pikes to let the police do their thing and put out a statement afterward, but they didn’t tell the chapter whether or not to talk to us and have no way of forcing a decision upon them. It’s also up to the local chapter whether or not to kick Ayala out.

We spoke with people in Student Affairs and found out Ayala’s been suspended from FAU for the interim. Standard procedure.

Well, those are the main things. I’m in sore need of sleep. More to come.

More on Ayala

Posted in ayala, legal on April 9, 2009 by Brandon

If you’re new to the whole issue, start here. Yesterday’s updates here.

I’ve been following Chris Ayala’s mysteriously changing Facebook, and it’s now been removed altogether. It could have been permanently deleted, or it could have been disabled for later restoration. Still don’t know who’s doing that; Ayala himself is still in jail, so someone obviously has his account info.

After some phone calls, I’ve found out we can’t just go visit Ayala and talk to him. The rules are he has to add us to his visitation list, and we can’t call him, so he’d have to decide independently to put us on his list or call us himself. What we can and did do yesterday was write and overnight him a letter asking that he do so. So we’ll still be trying to get in touch with him directly as best we can, but it’s entirely up to him.

Yesterday I filed for the police reports describing the incidents and this morning they were ready so I picked them up about an hour ago. Names and locations are redacted (i.e. crossed out and unreadable to protect identities), but I can confirm what Kim Miller reported in the Palm Beach Post on Tuesday. 13-year-old who claimed to be 16, the cheerleading outfit, three times, all consensual.

That’s it for now. We’ll be contacting a lot of people who knew or worked with Chris and writing about it next week as well. If you knew Chris Ayala and want to go on the record to say anything about your relationship with him or what kind of guy he was, contact me.

Update(s) on Ayala Case [UPDATED 4/8]

Posted in ayala, legal on April 7, 2009 by Brandon

UPDATED: Click the “More” link below for the most recent updates. This post is getting a little long.

I’ll leave the first post intact and use this one for ongoing updates. Read it first if you don’t know what’s going on with Chris Ayala, the former Boca treasurer.

Someone — apparently not Ayala, but through his Facebook account — posted the following just before 5 p.m. today:

For those of you who have sent INBOX messages, called and im’d Chris about this WHOLE screwed up situation. I will be more than happy to explain everything to you tonight. Text me your number 305.300.1664 and I will call you back. I am trying to setup something to meet everyone, somewhere and explain to you everything I know!

I did text this person and have had a few weird texts back and forth — it’s not clear how much the person knows or is willing to say at this point, or the person’s relation to Ayala, but I’ll continue to pursue it. I haven’t heard back since I explained what the UP is and that I’m a reporter. And that Facebook message (as of 10 p.m.) has been removed.

Ayala’s Facebook profile picture has also been changed from one with him shirtless and with his arms around two scantily-clad girls to one of him in a suit and tie. The photo’s also been deleted; wish I’d had the foresight to take a screenshot.

Here’s what SG Adviser Rivka Felsher had to say.

On how she found out about it: “Students were already buzzing about it. So it was like, ‘Did you see the news?’ And I was like, ‘I’ll take 5 minutes and look.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ I was really, um, surprised.”

And on how she felt about it: “I was, I guess, disappointed and saddened by it, but at the same time I’m right now taking it with a grain of salt. It was a very short article and didn’t have a lot of information. I have no facts about the incident at all, so all I can do is wait and see how things unfold.”

And here’s Boca House rep Jared Stark:

“I know Chris, and he’s a decent guy from what I can tell, but I don’t know him that well,” says Stark. “I have no idea other than what I’ve heard. Obviously it’s a pretty despicable thing if it’s true, but I don’t really know the details and don’t want to comment on that. I just really hope it’s not true.”

Boca Governor Tiffany Weimar was also willing to comment as far as she could, mostly on her working relationship with Ayala:

“As far as his position, he’s done a great job, he really has. We had an event today he’s been working really hard on, tirelessly, and he’s been really amazing,” says Weimar. “As far as everything else goes, it’s really just, pending investigation, I’m not really sure. As far as his personal stuff, whether it’s bad decisions or whatever, I don’t know. It’s disappointing to me and it’s upsetting because he’s a really great guy. We’ll see what happens, how it pans out.”

And as of 11 p.m. most of Ayala’s profile information has been removed. Including the Looking For (i.e., friendships, relationships, etc. for those not Facebook-savvy) and Interested In (i.e., sexual orientation) fields, but also his likes, dislikes, religious views, etc.

I’m not sure how this helps him. In fact, it just looks really sketchy to me. But again, it’s not Ayala doing this — it’s some mystery person with some mystery relationship to Ayala with his account information. Ayala’s currently sitting in a Palm Beach County jail.

That’s it for tonight. I’ll call about the full police report in the morning.

Continue reading

Ex-Boca Treasurer Arrested On Sex Charges; SG Not Talking About It

Posted in ayala, legal on April 7, 2009 by Brandon

The Palm Beach Post broke this story a bit ago and one of my readers commented and asked about it — and yes, it’s true. I looked it up on the Palm Beach County Clerks’ Web site and saw that he has a hearing scheduled for May 4th.

Chris Ayala, a 23-year-old finance major, made an aborted bid for student body president this semester, too, but was declared academically ineligible. He was also involved in the planning of an SG-sponsored lecture geared toward students learning to manage their credit. That lecture took place this afternoon.

Yesterday, he posted a Facebook message saying he was subleasing his apartment, too.

I don’t know if all the facts in that PBP story are accurate and I’ll be following up, hopefully getting the full police report, and some reactions, but that might be hard to do, and here’s why.

I don’t know the guy well; we’ve never talked much and the few times we have he’s been pretty reserved.

When I was walking over to the SG office to get some immediate reactions from people who knew him better, I ran into Boca Raton Budget Chair Kris O’Brien. She didn’t know anything about it, but when I handed her the article her mouth was hanging open and all she said was, “Oh my God!”

At this point, the graduate assistant on the other side of the door gestured for O’Brien to step into the office and told her she wasn’t supposed to talk about it.

“Rivka [Felsher] said not to talk about it. Can you turn that [recorder] off? I don’t want this on the record, I don’t want to be in it,” says Amanda Sullivan, one of SG’s two graduate assistants.

Rivka, the SG adviser, wasn’t in the office. The assistant didn’t know when she would be back. I called her cell and got voicemail. I tried calling Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena as well, got his voice mail too. Same with Student Body President Abe Cohen.

Chief Justice Mike Burdman gave a brief comment, but said he didn’t want to be in anything else about it. “It’s unfortunate,” says Burdman.

There will definitely be more about this soon.